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Popcorn Redemption

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“Listen, Winston-old-chap, I’m all for a treat every now and then, but just how many of those have you had today?”

“Just the one.”

Lena eyes the mostly-eaten candy bar in Winston’s giant fist with open skepticism. “Did I or did I not see you munching on one when I came down to the lab earlier?”

“No,” Winston grunts, peeling the remaining plastic wrapper back and inspecting the chunk of candy that remains. “That had peanuts and nougat. This has layers of crunchy peanut butter. There is a difference.” He pops the remaining bite into his mouth and chews, stuffing the trash in a pocket of his suit for disposal later.

“Whatever you say, luv,” she replies, looking out at the vast ocean below them. The normally turbulent water seems peaceful on a day this pleasant, pale clouds drifting lazily off in the distance, gulls occasionally swooping down at the sea. The launch deck of Watchpoint: Gibraltar is rather quiet compared to the usual hub-bub at this hour, but knowing Winston he most likely planned it that way. There is only one scheduled arrival today, and emotions will already be running high without the added stress of even more people to meet the newcomer.

Which leads Lena’s gaze over at their companion. With his mask firmly in place she cannot see Genji’s eyes but knows they are trained on the skies, as they have been for the past half hour. She is used to seeing the ninja much more relaxed, at least around herself and some of the other old guard. But at the moment his posture is ramrod straight, reminiscent of how he used to hold himself when he first joined Overwatch and was full of tamped down rage. That has eased with time, and vanished almost completely after his stint in Nepal. Lena is not happy to see the return of the old Genji; hopefully this is just a temporary drop back into old habits.

“There’s no reason to be nervous,” she reasons, giving Genji a little nudge with her elbow.

The touch rouses Genji from his focus even if he does not relax. He rocks his weight from one foot to the other, glancing over at her for a moment before looking back at the ocean. “He is late.”

“Only by a half hour. There could be any number of logical reasons why he has been delayed,” Winston rumbles, checking the time. There are also any number of projects he could be working on, but being here to introduce himself and welcome a new member of Overwatch is something he tries to take time out of his day to do.

The little scoff that escapes Genji’s throat vibrates in frequency with the electronics that assist his natural voice. “My brother only arrives when he plans to do so.” Lena rocks back on her heels, exchanging a worried look with Winston.

From the dim lighting of the hangar behind them a light ignites, sudden and flaring before easing into a steady flame. The cigarillo catches and McCree shakes the match out, taking a few short draws to get the tobacco burning before settling the it between his teeth. It leaves the left side of his face in soft orange glow, the rest obscured in shadow. Jesse has been watching the little gathered group for a while, leaning against the wall of the hangar. He is supposed to be going over ammunition inventory from a new shipment, double checking that everything is in order and letting Winston know if more is needed. Boring work, done in five minutes. No, a smoke and the possibility of a show is much more interesting.

To his right, Reinhardt grunts under the strain of lifting a heavy crate single-handedly up on top of another one, the wood creaking under its own weight before settling. The German mutters a few things about young man’s work before picking up a crowbar. “You are as subtle as my rocket hammer, ja?”

Jesse rolls his eyes, taking another draw and blowing smoke as he talks. “You know, you ought to leave the metaphorin’ to someone else.”

“What you know about metaphors that I don’t?”

“Well, for starters, you’ve got no sense of style. Be a little creative with it.” Jesse takes the cigarillo out of his mouth with his prosthetic and contemplates it a moment. “Let’s take your crack on my subtlety, then. I’d say you’re about as subtle as a rooster crowin’ on a fence post. But I’m subtler than a fox makin’ off with that prized rooster.”

As he moves to put the cigarillo back in his mouth, the tablet Jesse had been using to document the inventory beeps helpfully from the crate he left it on. Then Athena’s congenial if somewhat bland voice states, “The previous statements would be considered simile, not metaphor, Agent McCree.”

He raises an eyebrow at the tablet before looking ahead again. “Damn. A.I.’s right. Well, it’s the thought that matters.” Jesse turns his attention back to the little gathering below. Judging by Lena’s movements the time-jumper is starting to get fidgety. “You think he’s gonna show?”

Reinhardt wedges the crowbar between the slats of the box and begins to pry it open. “We sent invitation and he accepted. And it came from his brother; what is reason not to show?”

“I can think of a few,” Jesse replies. “Wanna put money on it?”

“Nein. I know better than to bet with cowboy like you.” The box creaks as it opens and Reinhardt sets to his own task, leaving Jesse to his own thoughts.

Jesse had not been the first to return after the recall, but only because it had taken Winston over a week to get him the message. Of all the times to take a job that kept him incommunicado. But the moment Winston reached him Jesse had dropped everything--including a rather expensive piece of surveillance equipment, but no one had been around at the time to foot him the bill--to heed the call. Two days later and Jesse’s boots were on the ground in Gibraltar for the first time since the disaster in Sweden. Winston had nearly cried upon seeing his familiar hat and serape coming off the air shuttle he had taken, sweeping him up into an undignified gorilla-hug and chattering on about having all his old team back. He had even kept Jesse’s old room just as it had been when the place was abandoned, with a few upgrades here and there and a brand new set of key codes to keep his privacy. Jesse feels a pang a guilt whenever he thinks about it; he should have done a better job of keeping up with Winston, and the others. Just because everything fell to shit was no excuse for rolling off like a tumbleweed through the brush.

Lena, Angela, and Reinhardt had beat him back to the old base, and even though dinner that night had been loose meat sandwiches and bagged chips the five of them had dined like kings. It had felt more like home than anywhere Jesse had laid his head in all the years since he left. Torbjörn’s return the next day and Genji’s three days after that had brought all but the dead back, and new blood was arriving every few days. As illegal as their operation may be, it still felt mighty good to be a part of Overwatch again.

Which brings him back to the little tableau on the deck. Jesse has mixed feelings about the eldest Shimada brother getting offered a spot in their clandestine peacekeeping organization. On the one hand, Overwatch is in desperate need of agents. There is simply no arguing that fact. They have too many enemies on too many fronts to be picky about just who is taking up arms in this fight. On the other hand, Jesse may be one of only a handful of people that knows just what is going on under the hard metal exoskeleton of one Genji Shimada, and pretty is not the word he would use. What that brother did to him was damn near sickening. He still remembers the early days where Angela was holding him together with little more than a hope and a prayer. And sure, Genji can claim forgiveness until the cows come home, but Jesse knows a few of the others are going to take more than the ninja’s word before they turn their backs to one Hanzo Shimada.

“Speak of the devil,” he mutters, catching sight of a carrier approaching from below. Sleek and nondescript, Winston and Athena must have arranged for an automated drop-off so as not to arouse suspicions. From a distance no one would notice the soft white vehicle moving through the sky on such a bright day. The carrier sends up a wind as it settles on the deck, the three below far enough back to not be in the way but close enough that Lena’s short hair dances with the air.

Jesse inhales deeply of his cigarillo, feeling the smoke burn in his lungs. “And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, ‘Come and see.’ And I looked, and behold a pale horse. And his name that sat on him was Death.” His eyes squint to focus on the figure stepping out of the carrier into the sunlight. “And Hell followed with him.”

Hanzo Shimada cuts a fine figure, at least from this distance. Broad shouldered with thick, muscled arms clearly visible since one side of his kyudo gi is baring both to the warm air. Dark hair already graying pulled back with a gold sash, carrying only what he needs in a single satchel, storm bow gripped firmly in his other hand. Jesse cannot see his face from this distance, but he sure can read body language. Stiff reluctance pours off him like water off a tin roof, but the man approaches the others nonetheless. Even Reinhardt stops his task to lean over the crate and watch silently.

Down below, Winston waits until the newcomer steps down onto the ground to approach. “Greetings. I am Winston, current Commander of Overwatch. Welcome to Watchpoint: Gibraltar. We’re glad you could join us.”

If Hanzo is surprised to meet an English-speaking gorilla, much less in charge, then he does an excellent job of hiding it. He inclines his head in greeting, the smallest of bows. “Hanzo Shimada.”

“Allow me to introduce Lena Oxton, one of the agents you will be working with.”

“Evenin’, luv,” Lena greets, taking a step forward and making a motion to offer her hand before realizing both of Hanzo’s are occupied. She instead gives a cocky little salute, winking at him from behind her orange goggles and bouncing on the balls of her feet. “Go by the call sign Tracer! It’ll be a right pleasure to have you on our side; Genji here’s raved plenty about your skills.”

Genji doesn’t comment on that and neither does Hanzo, though it still seems to be the cue to acknowledge one another. The ninja’s voice drags out from behind his faceplate. “Brother.”

“Brother,” Hanzo replies. Behind him the carrier lifts back into the air, a loud reminder that any thoughts of turning around and heading back into obscurity are no longer an option. He waits for downdraft to stop tossing his sash around his shoulders before continuing. “Raved?”

“Do not mind Lena, she has a flair for the dramatic.”

“Hey!”

Genji keeps his gaze on Hanzo. “I did not think you would come.”

Hanzo’s jaw works as he grits his teeth, working to stay neutral. “Here I am.”

“Here you are,” Genji parrots. He looks at Hanzo for a long moment then takes a deep breath, his exhale in time with the green gasses venting from his shoulders. “I am needed elsewhere. Winston and Lena will show you your room. We can talk later.” At Hanzo’s nod, Genji steps forward until they are within arm’s reach and puts a cool hand on Hanzo’s covered shoulder. “It is good to see you, Hanzo.”

Then he is off, striding back into the facility and leaving Hanzo with these two strangers.

“Awkward,” Lena sing-songs, she and Winston turning back from watching Genji leave to consider Hanzo.

The archer shifts uncomfortably on his prosthetics, then clears his throat. “I apologize if my presence causes distrust,” he says, polite as possible. “I am here to help. Whatever you ask of me, I will do what I can to assist your cause.”

That is good enough for Winston. He adjusts his glasses in a nervous gesture before dropping both fists back to the floor. “Uh, great! Excellent! Well, let me give you the short tour and show you to your quarters. I’m sure you’ve had a long journey.”

Lena begins a steady stream of commentary, Winston and Hanzo flanking either side of her as they head up the stairs toward the main entrance and where Reinhardt and Jesse have been watching. Jesse takes the cigarillo from his mouth and stubs it out, tucking the remaining length in his pocket. “I suppose we ought to say hello.”

Reinhardt sighs, setting the crowbar down and moving with Jesse to intercept the little group. The German is just as loud and booming as always as he introduces himself, and Jesse is distracted by the height difference. Shimada must be nearly two feet shorter that the German, no matter how proud his posture.

He is going to attribute that thought and his amusement about it to what comes out of his mouth rather than a proper introduction. “Howdy. You’s a might shorter than I expected.”

That certainly gets a reaction. Hanzo’s eyes go sharp and judgemental as they rake over the cowboy in front of him. Lena winces, making a throat-slitting motion at Jesse behind Hanzo’s back, but his attention is on the man before him. “I assumed Overwatch was a professional organization. Not a place to play dress-up.”

“Hey, now, I didn’t mean anything by it. Torbjörn’ll certainly give you a run for your money on that front,” he says, hooking a thumb in his belt loop and tipping his head back so his hat isn’t in his eyes as much. “The name’s McCree. You can call me Jesse.”

“You are an agent?” Hanzo asks, incredulous.

“Yep.”

The archer sizes him up once more for good measure, then quips. “I can see why you need my help.” With that dismissive remark, Hanzo turns and falls into step with Winston, Tracer lagging behind just long enough mouth the word ‘smooth’ at him while making a similar hand motion, then darting forward to follow.

Jesse stares after them, torn between offended and impressed, pulling the unlit cigarillo back out of his pocket and shoving it between his teeth. “Hey, nice to meet you too, partner!” he shouts after them. Hanzo doesn’t bother to acknowledge it.

Beside him, Reinhardt emits a low chuckle. “I see Genji’s humor runs in the family.”

He wanders off but Jesse stays there, eyes on Hanzo’s back until he disappears into the depths of the base. Seems that the eldest Shimada is a bit prickly around the edges to go along with being easy on the eyes. If he shoots half as good as Genji claims, they might really be in business. Nothing’s more intriguing than a sharp eye and a sharper mouth. Jesse grins, chewing on the tobacco. “Welcome to Overwatch, darlin’.”

---

Alright, so maybe Jesse’s first assessment was a little off.

Not the easy on the eyes part, that was right on the money. Jesse could watch that man move from dusk till dawn and back again. But he is starting to wonder if Hanzo is a little like the sun; bright and searing and if you stay too long in its presence you get radiation burns.

The man shines on the field. It had been hard to believe Genji’s claims about his brother’s abilities before, when he had insisted to Winston and the others that his brother would make a valuable asset to Overwatch. After all, Genji can get hyperbolic when the mood strikes him. He always thought it made Genji sound like the little brother he is, offering up wild exaggerations of just how good his older brother was at one thing or another. Turns out he was understating. Watching Hanzo execute the fluid motions of draw-aim-fire, whether still and poised on the range or in quick motion between obstacles, it is a thing of beauty. Jesse has always found aptitude attractive and there is nothing more attractive than a skilled ranged fighter. Hanzo wields his storm bow just as good if not better than Jesse wields his pistol, and part of Jesse died a happy little death at the realization.

Not that he is going to admit that. Or that he could if he wanted to, with the way Hanzo is every other moment of the day.

When he is not training or being slowly worked into a mission rotation, Hanzo is about as talkative as a cactus and just as wary to approach. So far his interactions with the other members of Overwatch have been limited to answering yes or no to questions thrown his way--if he deems them worthy of answering at all--and the occasional sentence or two regarding a mission.

Oh, and insulting Jesse. How could he forget.

Now, Jesse knows good and well that he got started on the wrong foot with Hanzo Shimada, and it is a good seventy-five percent his fault. No one has ever claimed Jesse made the best decisions in life. Mistakes are kind of his bread and butter. But any attempts to try and make amends seem to fail before they even get started, because that man brings out the back-talk in him something fierce. And, for whatever reason that he cannot quite put his finger on, Hanzo is the same way with him. Where everyone else gets a polite if distant Hanzo, Jesse always manages to weasel a quip or cutting little remark out of the man. If Jesse times it right he can even get a little sharp banter going on before Hanzo inevitably stalks off. The others do not understand it, discourage it, tell Jesse he is going to run their new ally off into the sunset with his attitude.

Jesse never explains his reasons. Maybe he does not understand them himself.

The archer spends his free time holed up in his quarters doing God-knows-what, meditating alone out on the cliffs, or tracking Genji through the compound. That last one, Jesse is not sure Genji or anyone else is really aware of. The only reason Jesse knows himself is from a night he had perimeter watch about a week after Hanzo arrived on base.

He had been leaning against one of the huge boulders off to the side of the hangar doors, just thinking about lighting up and enjoying the reprieve from the heat earlier that day, when he spotted Genji heading out. The ninja, damn fool that he is, sometimes practices his agility and balance by scaling the sheer rock faces that Watchpoint: Gibraltar is tucked into. Leaping from foothold to foothold, running damn near vertical if he has the momentum, it is a wonder they haven’t had to fish him from the drink yet. (To be fair, they have had to, once, but that had more to do with Genji’s own arrogance and a thousand dollar bet. The less said about the chastisement they got from Morrison after that one, the better.)

On that particular night Genji looked to be taking it easy, staying close to eye-level with the compound and stopping occasionally to sit and ponder whatever it is ninjas ponder when they look up at the night sky. He was hard to track, though, and Jesse figured he would keep an eye out and holler if he did not see Genji come back after an hour. His thumb had just been hovering over the match about to strike when he saw it. A flutter of gold, just the barest shine. He would not have seen it at all if the moon had not been full that night.

Eyes straining to pinpoint the movement, Jesse had tensed against the rock, gloved hand falling to his holster and thumbing the hammer of his pistol. If an intruder had already made it up to that level, then Jesse would need to radio for backup. Surely Athena would have detected someone getting past that point, unless they had somehow cut the power to the sensors--

Then Jesse had seen a shadowy figure skirt quick as lightning around a motion light, the gold sash in his hair picking up the faint glow. The now recognizable figure leapt across a narrow gap between two sections of roof before ducking to kneel behind a low retaining wall.

Jesse uncocked his gun after a few minutes, the tension easing from his muscles, and he put the cigarillo back in his pocket. It took him that long to figure out just what Hanzo is up to. From his little perch hidden in darkness Hanzo could easily watch the movements of Genji on the cliffs without being spotted in return. He had his storm bow at his side, quiver over his shoulder, but there was nothing hostile about his readied stance. They were at a distance from each other but Jesse could clearly see Hanzo’s form, black against black with the night sky. When Genji made a particularly long leap Hanzo leaned up, as if fighting an instinct to leap after him. No, there was something protective about this, Jesse thought, considering Hanzo in a new light. An older brother, still keeping an eye out for the younger. After everything the two of them have done, to others and to each other, there is still something there. It is small and by the time the pale light of day came it would be hidden away again, but it is there.

He had stayed there, Hanzo watching Genji and Jesse watching Hanzo, until the two brothers disappeared back into the building in their own quiet ways. His suspicions are confirmed when three days later he catches a repeat performance, this time Hanzo quietly watching Genji as the other man does katas.

This time Jesse does not linger, instead strolling past the ninja and offering a warm greeting before moving on. It takes all he has not to look up at Hanzo’s hiding spot and tip his hat.

---

“But I don’t understand; what makes a food a superfood?” Lena asks, scraping her spoon along the bottom of her bowl to get the milky remnants of her cereal and a few random leftover blueberries.

Mei adjusts her glasses and replies with a soft but eager voice, “Actually, superfood is not really scientifically proven at all. But in the broadest sense of the word it is meant to represent foods that provide health benefits beyond their nutritional value, such as antioxidation or cancer prevention, or--”

“But it is proven!” Zarya punctuates this with a loud thump to the metal table, causing Mei’s pencil to rattle across her notes. “Trainers back in Russia, they say what to eat, say how much, how it build strong bones and stronger muscles. Use superfoods to help make Zarya strongest woman in--”

“It is nonsense.” Fareeha stabs her fork through a grape in her salad, popping it in her mouth to chew and ignoring the affronted look Zarya gives her from across the table. “Just clever marketing.”

Lena slurps just a tad drinking the remaining milk from her bowl, giggling at her own childishness before setting it down. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, a company wants to increase profits? Say it is a superfood. No one listens to scientists about what they eat, sorry Mei, especially when all it takes is a little money to buy a scientist’s expert opinion.”

Mei huffs. “That is just so unethical!”

“And that is my point. No one is checking behind them. No one cares as long as it moves products. It’s the sort of thing people want to believe is real because it makes them feel better about themselves. And it hooks some people, no matter what is true,” Fareeha concludes, gesturing to Zarya and accidentally dropping another grape onto the ground.

Zarya shoves her chair back, the metal screeching uncomfortably loud and jarring over the floor. She leans down to pick up the fallen fruit and uses it to point at Fareeha. “Just because you are--”

“Hey!” A mop of unruly brown hair and annoyed dark eyes look up over the top of the couch. Over his head they can see the harsh glow of a movie on screen mounted on the wall. “Can y’all quit bickerin’ about berries and keep quiet? I’m tryin’ to watch this and y’all are ruining the atmosphere.”

“It’s a common room for a reason,” Lena points out. “Why are you in here, anyway? You’ve got one in your room.”

Jesse grumbles, turning back and slumping down lower to focus back on his movie. “Ain’t working. Something’s wrong with the input, and it’s low on Winston’s priorities, if you must know.”

“Movie does not make sense, anyway,” Zarya says, tilting her head to watch the man on the screen. “And main actor, he does not look like hero. He is too skinny, too--”

“Alright, now, you may be the world’s strongest woman but if you plan on disrespecting Eastwood you’re going to have to bring a gun even bigger than the one you lug around to that duel.” And to punctuate that he picks up the remote and hikes the volume up another eight clicks.

Zarya’s voice goes from aggressive to confused. “What is Eastwood--?”

Lena hops to her feet, suppressing her amusement for now. “Speaking of big guns, it’s getting pretty late and we’ve got training first thing in the morning! Let’s clear out and let Jesse relax!”

Jesse glares at the television, listening to the four women talk another few minutes and dispose of their late night snacks before they begin to shuffle out. Honestly, he usually hardly minds if there is chatter going on while watching a movie. Quiet is rarely available anywhere inside these walls, not since all these new agents signed on. But tonight he is just not in the mood.

It started yesterday when a mission left him bruised along his left leg from knee to ankle, an omnic throwing him like a sack of grain through a window and down a flight of stairs. Combat rolling is pretty ineffective when you hit the the ground at that kind of angle. The broken glass had caused a single superficial cut on his ear that stings like a fire ant bite but will heal in a few days. Worse still the fall had him heavily favoring his leg and Mercy benching him until his mobility comes back. This on the heels of a scathing assessment of his inability to stay out of arm’s reach by Hanzo, who had taken out more than his fair share of opponents and barely looked winded.

Then this morning found him drinking the bottom dregs of the coffee pot, stale and flavorless from whoever forgot to start a new one. Jesse might rise with the morning sun like any good farmhand but without a decent cup of coffee he is always ornery and ready to fight. Target practice was less than stellar, even if he did get some well-needed practice shooting from a prone position. His concentration was just all off today, and a wandering walk around base was a no-go, so he had done some much needed laundry and a few mission reports for Winston that he had been neglecting. All in all the kind of day that leaves him restless yet exhausted and needing to immerse himself in another time and place for a few hours, which is why he is here with his leg elevated on the table in front of him, a pack of ice strapped in place.

The sound of four sets of shoes fades down the hall and for a few blessed minutes Jesse allows himself to appreciate the solitude. But soon enough something unknown makes his ears strain, feeling as if someone is behind him. Leaning up just a few inches he checks over the back of the couch before ducking back down again, fighting off a sigh.

Of course. It had to be Shimada.

The other man barely makes a sound moving around the little kitchen behind him. If this is anything like every other time they have met in the common rooms, he will be gone as soon as he finishes brewing his tea. With that in mind, Jesse trains his eyes back on the screen. Club, the biggest of Cloy LaHood’s hired goons, is threatening Hull and the Preacher with a sledge hammer. With a mighty swing he cleaves apart the stone Hull had been working to break for the past two years in search of the gold underneath. The speakers make a loud crack along with the strike, and Jesse obediently turns it down a few notches, hoping he did not damage them.

Josh LaHood, son of one of the antagonists, nods for Club to attack. Preacher, at least a good hundred pounds lighter than Club, takes him out with two swift strikes of his own hammer, one to the forehead and one to the groin. Then, like a gentleman, he leads the giant of a man back to his horse and recommends a little ice as he helps him up in the saddle. Jesse smirks a little at that. He always liked how Preacher could be a total badass and at the same time more considerate to all these strangers than all their friends and family have been for years.

On the other horse, Josh glares at Preacher and tosses the ends of his coat aside to reveal his gun, fingers poised and ready to draw on this man who just bested the most intimidating man on their payroll. But Preacher just stares back, disapproving, and after a tense moment the two ride off from the mining site.

“He just lets them leave?”

Jesse does not startle, having not completely forgotten Hanzo was back there, but he was not expecting commentary. Judging by the distance he thinks Hanzo is back by the counter brewing his tea. Or possibly just refilling that canteen of alcohol he knows Hanzo carries with him at all times. “Yep.”

“Even though they were just threatened?” Hanzo presses, incredulous.

“Yep,” Jesse repeats. “None of ‘em are armed, not even Preacher. They might take ‘em in a rush, but that ain’t the point. Preach’s got to give them a chance to do what’s right.”

Hanzo makes a disapproving and dismissive noise and turns back to his task, and Jesse assumes that ends the discussion. The movie goes on until Preacher is getting the offer from Cloy LaHood himself before Hanzo speaks again, this time much closer than expected.

“He is trying to bribe a man of faith?”

Jesse tilts his head, considering. “I don’t know if it’s considered a bribe if he’s offering to buy them out.”

“It is a bribe or extortion, with the threat of violence he includes,” Hanzo says, stepping into view at the end of the couch, watching the screen with a displeased look on his face and a cup in his hands. Jesse wonders how long he was standing back there watching.

“The LaHood’s ain’t exactly the most benevolent of businessmen,” Jesse chuckles, glancing up at him.

“Then why would he even agree to speak with him in the first place?”

“Get to know your enemy and all that, I reckon.” The other man stays standing there another minute before it occurs to Jesse to mind his manners. He pushes up with arms and his good leg and moves to the side, his leg dragging to the edge of the table. “Hey, now, forgive me, let me make room--”

“That is not necessary,” Hanzo starts, but Jesse shakes his head and gestures for Hanzo to take the other side of the couch.

“Course it ain’t necessary, but you got it all the same.”

McCree picks up the controller and stops the movie, which gets Hanzo confused and a bit annoyed, until he realizes that the cowboy is just restarting the movie. Which means he intends for Hanzo to stay. “I did not say that I was going to--”

“You can’t appreciate the story as well if you come in from the middle. The beginning’s important; you got to establish just how helpless these guys are, how much they need somethin’ to rally behind. C’mon, don’t be shy, it ain’t like I’m gonna object to starting over, I’ve seen it enough times.”

Hanzo visibly hesitates, all uncertainty and distrust and searching for ulterior motives. It is a look that Jesse has had pointed his way enough times that it does not bother him too terribly much. Besides, if anyone around here has a reason to have trust issues he would wager it would be anyone with Shimada as a surname. So Jesse does not call him on it, instead settling back into his new corner of the couch and tugging his serape a little higher toward his chin, eyes on the screen.

The archer must decide the risk is worth the reward as he sits across the couch, as far from Jesse as possible with his back straight and formal. He also notices the empty glass tumbler by Jesse’s raised foot, the remnants of ice melting on the bottom. Feeling the need to reciprocate his kindness in some way, Hanzo reaches for his canteen. “I take it you drink?” he asks.

Jesse’s face tilts up into a pleased half-smile. “Only after nine in the morning,” he says. His glass gets partially filled with a rosey golden orange liquid, and Jesse leans up to pick it off the table and bring it to his nose. “Thank’ya kindly. What’s this?”

“Plum wine,” Hanzo replies, topping off his own cup.

“Plum wine, huh? Ain’t had this in a good long while,” he comments, taking a sip. It’s sweet and sour all at once, so different than what he usually imbibes, and he makes a face as he swallows. “It’s good.” Hanzo does not laugh, but something close to amusement crosses his features, so Jesse adds, “And please, you gotta at least sit back. Watchin’ you is enough to make this old back ache, and I got enough aches for one night.”

“You would not have them if you would have minded your flank,” the archer points out. But for once it lacks the heat the words usually bring. And, unbelievably, he eases back against the couch cushions. Still stiff but McCree takes it as a win.

“We’ve been over that, I think,” Jesse says, waving him off and gesturing to the screen. “Now, let me know if something don’t make sense; it’s supposed to be based in the Californian gold rush, and I’m guessing you probably didn’t cover that in Japan.”

“I think I can figure it out,” Hanzo grouses, turning his attention to the movie.

But he does ask questions, eventually, enough that Jesse ends up pausing the movie long enough to answer some of them in detail. He finds Hanzo to be a good listener, and it is so rare for people to be interested in McCree’s hobbies. And though he expects Hanzo to leave within the first half hour he ends up staying through until Megan runs after the Preacher riding off into the mountains, shouting her love and thanks to him.

Hanzo frowns at the screen for a long moment before saying, “They should have left.”

“You think so?” Jesse asks, tilting his head back and looking over at the archer.

“It is like you said; they were helpless. They did not know how to fight. And the peace keepers of the area, they would not come to their aid. They put all their faith in a man.”

“That’s how faith works. Not that I prescribe much to it myself,” Jesse replies, chuckling. “Would be a piss-poor movie if they’d just took the money and left, wouldn’t it?”

His companion makes a grunt noise, reluctant agreement. “They still should have left. They could have taken that money and started somewhere new, that was less dangerous for their families. The man, Spider Conway, he would not have been killed if they had.”

Jesse nods. “Maybe not that day,” he agrees. “But he’d have never found that nugget of gold, either.”

“It was foolish.”

“Well, it’s like they said. ‘Starting fresh always sounds good when you’re in trouble.’ Take you, for instance.”

The moment the words leave Jesse’s mouth he knows he should have kept his trap shut. Hanzo stiffens and looks at him sharply, the skin around his eyes and mouth going tight. “What about me?” he asks sharp and deadly. Like a viper waiting to strike.

Well, in for a penny. “You always look about two bad steps away from rabbitin’ right on out of here,” Jesse says. “I see it, and I know damn well Genji sees it. Hell, Genji probably didn’t think you’d last a week. It’d be a hell of a lot easier for you to leave, after all. Disappear, start somewhere new. Somewhere where they ain’t never heard of Hanzo Shimada, and the name doesn’t really matter, does it?” He sits up, injured leg falling down to the ground so he can rest both arms on his knees, the edges of his serape pooling in the crooks of his elbows. “But you’re still here. Stickin’ it out, even though it’s hard, even though everybody knows you don’t want to be here. Something to be said for that.”

“You have no idea what I want,” Hanzo practically growls, surging to his feet, hands clenching for the storm bow back in his room. Not waiting for a rebuttal, he turns on his heels and stalks out of the room, prosthetics tapping loudly on the metal floor and echoing down the hall in his wake.

Jesse is reminded of the dragons, what he has seen of Genji’s and has not of Hanzo’s, and another time long ago when another Shimada slashed out with those same cutting words. They are more alike than they know. “Maybe,” he replies to the empty room, thinking of Hanzo keeping a watchful eye on his unaware brother. “But I know more than you think.”

Chapter Text

There are three missions in quick succession that Jesse is forced to miss thanks to his injuries. He starts arguing after the first one, insisting that he can move just fine and that it is not fair to the others that they must take on the extra burden, but Angela is adamant.

“You can’t even put all your weight on that knee,” she says, hands busy extracting a gold serum of some sort with a large needle from an equally large bottle. She then injects the medicine into smaller vials before placing each one carefully in a circular metal holder. At least Jesse hopes it is medicine; he likes to tease Angela that she is secretly in here cooking up the next zombie apocalypse. She is always less than amused.

Jesse, who has been doggedly harassing her off and on for the past three hours, huffs from his position in a rolling chair across from her work station. His injured leg is on another rolling chair, and in his boredom has taken to wheeling both around the medical bay with increasing speed and skill. Angela has threatened to kick him out if he knocks over so much as a box of tongue depressors, but his ability to maneuver around without bumping into anything is impressive. The only reason he is stationary now is because one of the wheels under the secondary chair was making the loudest squeak every two rotations and there is only so much squeaking Mercy can handle before even she would turn to violence. “It’s escorting a payload; I coulda just sat on top the damn thing and shot from there. They ain’t even expecting competition for it.”

“And if enemies did show up, you would be the best target.”

He grumbles again, resting his bent elbow on the table to watch her work. He hates it when she is right. No valid argument with that one. “You could at least have healed me. Or put this old dog out of his misery rather than makin’ him suffer.”

“That isn’t how it works and you know it. Mortal wounds. Traumatic damage. Gunshots, since you all seem to attract plenty of that. Those are good uses of my abilities. Not a little soreness and bruising, not something that can heal easily with rest. Some things only time can mend.” Angela gives him a pointed look. “You know, you could be down with Winston listening in instead of pestering me.”

“That’ll just make it worse,” he groans.

“I disagree. It would be a lot easier to get my work done.”

He squints over at her. “I thought you were supposed to be sympathetic.”

That gets him a little smirk. “You are a special case, Jesse McCree.”

Jesse sniffs, then laughs. “I am choosing to take that as a compliment, regardless of your intentions, Miss Mercy.”

Angela chuckles, depositing the last of the vials in place and sliding the whole thing into a slot in a machine and closing it. Once it is secure she hits a few buttons and it starts to whir, the vials inside going for a spinning ride and doing...whatever it is they are doing in there. Jesse has long since stopped asking. “Okay, I’ll bite; why would it be worse to be down in the comm unit?”

“Listenin’ in makes me restless,” he explains. “It’s like watching someone play chess. I can see all the pieces but I can’t tell ‘em where to move or how to attack. But having me chatterin’ in their ear like a magpie wouldn’t be much help, either, they’d just get irritated. Whole thing makes me itch.”

“I didn’t know you played chess,” she says, momentarily surprised. They’ve known each other a long time, so it’s odd to find something new like that.

“More of a checkers man, myself, but I know my way around the board,” he grins.

She stands and goes to return the large bottle to a cabinet along one of the walls. “I’ll have to keep that in mind the next time you end up doing something brave and silly and end up in one of these beds. As long as you don’t get mad and flip the board like Reinhardt and Torbjörn.” Turning back, she takes her hair down only to put it back up in a nearter ponytail. “Well, we both need to eat. Join me for lunch?”

Jesse drops his boot down to the floor and eases to his feet. His knee is still stiff but a quick test of weight shows that it can take a little more weight than when he walked in. Donning his hat, he tips it to her before offering his arm. “I’d be honored, ma’am.”

“Don’t turn that charm on me, silly cowboy,” she chuckles, slipping her arm into his. To anyone they might come across in the hallway, it will look like McCree being a gentleman. Which he is, but he is also a man who needs a little help getting down to the mess hall, so Angela does not comment when she takes a little bit of his weight on herself. Jesse might not have much shame, but there are a lot of new faces around Gibraltar lately and she would like to spare him some dignity, especially with how cocky some of these new soldiers are.

Unfortunately they do not make it to lunch; Jesse perks as his ears pick up the sound of voices coming from beyond the doors that lead to the hangar. Raised voices. He knows Angela hears them too because her hand tightens on his arm in anticipation.

The door flies open with a hard shove as Hanzo comes through first, shoulders back and eyes forward. It is clear he is in a foul mood but that has never stopped Jesse before. “Hey, how’d the mission go--whoa, there!” He has to rotate with Mercy out of the way as Hanzo breezes past, not even sparing them a second glace. Fury radiates off him in almost palpable waves.

Their attention is then torn between his retreating form to one side and the loud group pushing the doors open again on the other. Zarya and Reinhardt seem to be having a heated disagreement but surprisingly Mei seems to be the one doing most of the talking, worried and regretful words babbling out of her a mile a minute as she walks with Fareeha at her side. Out of her combat suit, the taller woman is wrapped tight in a heavy wool blanket and shivering hard. Her normally tan skin is unnaturally pale and her teeth are practically chattering as she takes smaller than normal steps. There are even little clumps of ice clinging to her limp damp hair.

“--and I promise, it will never happen again! It was an accident! We’re almost there and I’m sure Dr. Ziegler can help! We can--oh!” Mei catches sight of Angela, who has already abandoned Jesse to rush forward. “Dr. Ziegler! Please, could you--?”

Angela tips Fareeha’s head up so she can check her pupils, then puts one arm around her back so her other hand can wrap around the icy cold fingers still encased in leather combat gloves. “Let’s get you warmed up,” she says with her gentle but commanding doctor’s voice. She is already leading Fareeha back toward the infirmary. “Can you feel your hands?”

“Y-yes,” she stutters, huddling into Angela’s warmth. “But it’s c-c-cold.”

“It was an accident,” Mei insists again, tears lingering in her eyes and on her glasses from where she has already been crying. “They were right next to each other! I meant to shoot the omnic, and its metal armor was almost the same color as Fareeha’s! I’m so, so sorry!”

“I t-told you, it is f-f-fine,” Fareeha says as the three of them disappear into the med bay, the double doors swinging shut again behind them.

McCree turns on the two that are left in the hallway. “What happened?” he asks, though he has a pretty good idea.

“I will tell you what happened,” Zarya starts, already worked up and angry, but the sound of Reinhardt’s hammer clanking loud against the floor as he sets it down cuts her off.

“We met some resistance,” he explains much less dramatically. “A group of omnics, nothing too troubling. But we were rushed from the left and the little one is not used to battle. Pharah took three or four blasts intended for the enemy.”

Jesse winces, feeling a phantom gust of cold just at the thought. He shifts his weight to his good leg and puts a hand out to the wall to hold himself up. “I need to get that girl in the training room and sharpen her skills, is what your sayin’.” He should have thought of that before now. Back in the old days he used to do regular marksmanship sessions with anyone who needed a refresher, especially those that did not primarily use a gun. It is all well and good to have a weapon to defend yourself, but if you do not know how to use it you could be more dangerous than any enemy. But with the way everything is being thrown together since the Recall, it just slipped his mind. Sloppy, he thinks. Too sloppy.

“Shimada said as much,” Reinhardt agrees.

“That man knows nothing!” Zarya growls, fists clenching as she glares at Reinhardt. “He is as much a soldier as Mei; he can keep opinion to himself!”

“Hey, now, let’s just hold your horses, there ain’t no need for that,” Jesse says, holding a hand up like he’s trying to calm an angry bull. Which, given Zarya’s strength, might not be far from accurate.

“I have no horse! But I do have particle cannon that will fit right up his--”

“That’s enough,” Jesse barks, tone sharp enough to direct the Russian’s anger at McCree rather than Hanzo. “Now, I don’t know what was said but whatever it was, that’s between Miss Zhou and Shimada. Ain’t no sense in getting all worked up over something said in the heat of battle. You push it off and move on.” He nods towards the infirmary. “Go on in there, check and see if they need anythin’. That’d be a better use of your energy.”

Zarya advances on him, and behind her Reinhardt looks like he is preparing to break up a fight. But all she does is hiss in his face, “If archer says one more word to her, I will break him.” With that Zarya strides through the doors leaving the two men alone.

Jesse lets out a low whistle. “And here I thought him not talkin’ was the problem.”

“I think Hanzo is not used to working with a team.” Reinhardt replies, shaking his head in dismay. He looks back at Jesse. “I must be old, to see you taking charge with these young recruits. You sounded like Morrison there.”

He scoffs, giving Reinhardt a warning look. “Uncalled for, Papá Oso,” he says, falling back on his favorite Spanish nickname for the veteran. “Talk like that and I’ll have all y’all doing burpees and runnin’ suicides across the hangar.”

Reinhardt lets out a groan at the memories. “Do not remind me. I can still feel the cramps in my calves.” He hefts his hammer back over his shoulder, prepared to leave. “Are you really going to show the little scientist how to shoot?”

“Course I am. I’ll talk to her about it once they’ve all calmed down a tad.”

The older soldier heads off then to his quarters and McCree briefly considers searching out Hanzo to get his side of the story before dismissing the idea and beginning the slow walk to lunch. The ones in the infirmary are not the only ones that need to calm down. Best to save it for now.

---

McCree never finds time to talk to Hanzo. The next mission, Talon agents manage to slip an entire cache of military weapons right out from under Winston’s nose. The week ends with the American government nearly capturing their transport vehicle, and another strike against Overwatch in the eyes of the world.

---

Tekhartha Zenyatta arrives two weeks later. Coming straight from Nepal, his transport touches down in the early morning hours, just as the sun is rising. It takes Jesse approximately sixteen minutes to see that this is going to cause a problem.

In the handful of times Jesse has had a chance to watch Hanzo in a group, a few things have become obvious. Hanzo had seemed vaguely unsettled with Genji’s friendly demeanor around his former Overwatch teammates, but it was easily explainable. There is an ease with which he interacts with people like Mercy, who saved his life all those years ago with little more than a wing and a prayer, or Tracer who is friendly with pretty much anyone who is not actively trying to kill her (and some that are besides.) Or, Jesse himself. Genji had been all spit and fire back when they had first worked together. He had needed someone to sass him right back when he was getting touchy, and someone to listen to him in the dead of night when the terrors in his mind came to call. Someone who would knock him on his ass if he got too self righteous then lend him a hand back to his feet. There had been a time for kid gloves and a time for tough love; it was just a matter of knowing your way around a clock.

So he could understand Hanzo’s reluctance to engage, and his looks from a distance. Hanzo never knew that Genji from a few years ago, and he never knew this Genji, either. The one that has finally found his way in the world and settled into his new skin like it was his from birth. All Hanzo has known is the Genji from before, young and naive playboy left bloody and broken by Hanzo’s own hands. It must be hard to reconcile all he remembers with what he sees now.

But Zenyatta brings all that to the forefront. And as enlightened as the omnic may seem to be, it is easy to tell there is at least a little underlying tension on his end when Genji introduces him to his brother. It is almost achingly formal. Zenyatta does not have human eyes but Jesse could swear they would be boring pointedly into Hanzo with the power of a laser beam. And Hanzo’s jaw had been clenched so tight it was a wonder he managed to get words out. Jesse, watching from behind the rest of the group that came out to meet the omnic, is not sure who he feels more sorry for.

The worst part being when Genji’s hand had settled on Zenyatta’s back as he accompanied the others to show the monk around Watchpoint: Gibraltar.

So, Jesse knows something is brewing. Unfortunately everyone else is either too short-sighted or too polite to mention it, because by mid-afternoon Zenyatta is well and truly settled into his new home and making friends, and Hanzo has vanished from all the public areas. And even though he would like to go looking for the broody archer and try and smooth those wrinkles, he has an appointment he would rather not be late for.

Mei is already at the practice range when Jesse comes in, having abandoned her heavy coat on one of the benches in a big poofy pile of fluff. Without it she looks particularly tiny, what with her baby blue tank top and navy workout pants, pale arms holding her endothermic blaster out in front of her awkwardly. Still wearing the massive boots, though. It is just adorable.

“How on Earth you still wearing those big ole clod hoppers?” Jesse asks as he strolls in, spurs jangling to announce his entrance. There’s only the faintest twinge of pain in his knee if he runs now, so his gait is steady. “You’ve got to be meltin’ under there.”

“My feet get cold,” she defends, smiling and stepping back away from the firing line to face Jesse. “Thank you for offering to help me out--”

“Naw, don’t you start that now. It ain’t no trouble at all. ‘Sides, I’ve got a vested interest in stayin’ alive, and you knowing how to shoot will be mighty helpful in keeping me that way.” Jesse comes up to where Mei has all her gear laid out, investigating the little glowing blue cylinders in a box on the bench. “This your ammo?”

“Yes! It’s a formula that I came up with, actually, based on cryogenic technology!” She bounds over and begins to explain, and McCree’s eyes glaze over about twenty seconds in. It must be a common reaction because she stops mid-sentence and her demeanor dims. “Sorry, I guess you wouldn’t be interested…”

Jesse chuckles, shaking his head. “It’s not that I ain’t interested, but you might be talkin’ about a mile over my head,” he says, picking up one of the tubes and rotating it in his fingers thoughtfully. “How often do you have to reload?”

Mei brings her blaster over and shows him the cannister on the side. “I fill this with the ammunition, and when I need to reload I rotate this, see?” He watches as the little tube fills back up with blue from being mostly empty. “I’ve never needed more than one canister-full, but I carry a backup just in case.”

“Have you ever had to change it in battle?”

She frowns, looking from the gun up to Jesse. “Um…no?”

“Welp, we’re gonna have to practice that, as well as your aim. I know so far everything you’ve been on has been cut and dry, but don’t get used to these short missions. You have to be ready for the long game.” he says. He holds a hand out to the endothermic blaster, palm out and polite. “May I?”

Mei blinks at him. There’s just the slightest hesitation before Mei hands the gun over, turning it properly to present the grip facing Mei, the barrel down perpendicular to the ground, safety off. Jesse looks pleased by this.

“At least you know some of your gun safety,” he says, taking it in hand and testing its weight. It has some heft to it, more than he expected, but there is a lot more going on under the surface than with Peacekeeper. It is back-heavy and while he can fit his hand in the odd handle his fingers do not have a lot of room to move. “You made this?”

“Not entirely. Just the cryo-system inside. Winston helped design the outer casing and how it fires. All you do is--”

McCree thumbs off the safety and pivots toward the robotic targets standing idle across the room, arm raised, and fires three quick bursts. The one he is aiming for gets hit square in the chest, ice spreading unnaturally fast outward, the indicator light dimming out to black to show a kill.

Behind him, Mei’s mouth clacks shut, eyes wide. “Nevermind, you already know.”

“Hardly any recoil,” Jesse comments, looking over the gun, impressed. Winston has a way with technology. “Good response time. Quick reload.” He nods, clicking the safety back in place and turning to hand the gun back. “You got yourself a fine weapon there, Miss Zhou.”

“Thank you,” she demures, taking it back with a faint blush.

“I take it you haven’t had much practice using a gun, though?”

“No...I mean, I do practice! I do! It’s just...there was always something that needed to be done in the lab, and I lose track of time, and it seemed...more important.” Mei sounds like she’s confessing she has not done her homework to her principal.

“I get that,” he allows. “But this is important, too. So, we’re gonna make this a priority.” Jesse goes over to the wall and hits the target reset. For Mei’s protocol that means the robot at the other end of the range begins to heat up from the inside, melting the ice away and restoring it to room temperature, the life indicator light coming back on.

He is going to have to bring Winston a box of candy bars, because he has really outdone himself with the shooting range. Or maybe that one was Torbjörn.

“We?” Mei asks.

Jesse nods, coming back and turning her to face the target. “Yep. We’re gonna practice an hour a day, three times a week, ‘till you feel confident wieldin’ a gun.”

“Then I can stop?” she asks, looking up over her shoulder.

He chuckles darkly. “Nope. By then you’ll be bit by the bug and won’t want to stop,” he replies. “We’re gonna make a sharpshooter out of you in no time. Now, first thing to remember…”

---

“Front sight, trigger press, follow through.” Mei takes another slow inhale then breathes out the words again, almost as a mantra. “Front sight, trigger press, follow through.”

“Take your time,” Jesse says quietly, leaning against the safety rail with his thumbs hooked in his belt and watching her stance carefully.

“Front sight, trigger press, follow through.” She swallows to clear her throat and aims, falling silent. Then an icy blast sounds through the room, loud and sharp, and the target takes a hit to the shoulder. Mei lowers her gun only after the ice starts to spread and she stares in shock for a half a second before letting out a loud whoop and raising both arms in the air. “Yes!”

“There you go! See, I told you it’d be--whoa, now! Safety on!” He ducks a little as Mei swings wildly in her excitement, then quickly does as she’s told and secures the weapon before cheering again.

“Sorry!”

“I think that’s a good place to stop for today,” he says, coming forward. “End on a high note, as they say. Next time we’ll build on that. But you need to find time to get in a few shots tomorrow. Don’t need you backslidin’, do we?”

“I will,” she promises, gathering her things and going to pull on her coat.

It is then that she looks toward the door and sees Hanzo. Jesse had noticed him when he first came in the shooting range about ten minutes ago. The archer had walked in with bow in hand and a determined look on his face but had been brought up short, clearly not expecting the range to be occupied. Jesse had just nodded his head in Hanzo’s direction, a slight dip of his hat, and told Mei to shift her weight. Instead of making a hasty retreat Hanzo had found a bench at the far end and sat checking over his bow, or at least pretending to do so. Jesse has a suspicion he has rather been watching Mei’s progress.

Now, Hanzo rises to his feet, leaving his bow laying across the bench seat and approaching the scientist. Mei tugs her big coat around her like armor, eyes down on the buttons hidden under the fabric. She is not expecting Hanzo to stop a few yards away and to address her. “Miss Zhou,” he greets, his voice calm and regretful. “I wish to extend my apologies. My words to you on our last mission were uncalled for, and said in anger. They have plagued me since, and I am truly sorry. It was not my place to speak to you in such a way, and I ask for your forgiveness.” He follows this up with a formal bow.

Color rushes to Mei’s cheeks and she shakes her head quickly, the little snowflake charm on her hairstick swinging back and forth with the movement. “Oh, no, Shimada-san, that isn’t necessary, really.”

“It is.” Hanzo raises back up from his bow. Even though he still looks stoic as always, his features are also tinged with remorse. “It will not happen again.”

It takes a moment for Mei to figure out how to respond, before giving her own little less-formal bow and smiling at him tentatively. “Thank you. I appreciate it.”

Hanzo nods and turns to go retrieve his gear, having said what he needed to say, but of course Jesse cannot just leave it at that. “She’s made a bit of progress, for a first lesson,” he says in that loud, assessing way that could be just to the room at large, but is most definitely pointed at Hanzo. “Mighty fine bit’a progress. Course she got herself a mighty fine teacher for it.”

“She has shown much improvement,” Hanzo allows, picking up his quiver and securing it over his shoulder. He pauses and adds, “Despite her choice of instructor.”

“Ouch,” McCree replies, smirking and putting a hand to his heart. “And I suppose you think you could do better?”

The goad is transparent, Jesse knows. From the sharp little glint in Hanzo’s eyes when he shoots a look over his shoulder, he can tell Hanzo sees through it like glass. But Mei is standing next to Jesse looking hopeful in a way that is hard to ignore. Hanzo picks up his bow and walks back toward them. “Firearms are not my specialty,” he says, adjusting his grip on his weapon. “McCree would be better suited to teach you. But, swordsmanship untested in battle is like the art of swimming mastered on land. When you are ready to move beyond the basics to more advanced fighting, I would be honored to help.”

At the same time that Jesse blurts, “Basics!” Mei moves forward to give another little bow to Hanzo, all smiles. “Thank you! Thank you, that would be great!” Then she gives Hanzo a sudden and unexpected hug around the arms. His eyes widen in shock and he goes stiff as a board, but she pays that no mind. It is over before he even has a chance to speak, and then Mei is grabbing her things. “I’ll see you guys at dinner. I’ve got a lot of work to do before then. Thanks again!”

Mei is barely out of the room before Jesse is scoffing. “Basics! Well how do you like that? Basics.” He grabs a box of his own ammo and takes up a position on the range two positions down from where Hanzo is rechecking his bow string and stretching his arm. “But I’ll play along with the joke if it makes her happy and gets her to practice.”

“Who said I was joking?” Hanzo replies, pulling an arrow from behind his back and notching it in place.

“Pardon me?”

“You might be a quick shot and have good aim, but you are an easy target in all that color and flash.” Hanzo pulls and fires, the arrow striking the target with a solid thwap to the center mast. “I could hear you coming over the sound of a hundred marching soldiers with those...spurs,” he adds, the emphasis on the last word showing his dislike.

Jesse turns one of his boots to the side and looks down, the offending accessory jangling unhelpfully. “Well, your little gold hair bows ain’t much better,” he counters, beginning to load his weapon.

“It is not a hair bow.”

“Ribbon, then.”

“It is not a ribbon either,” Hanzo grates out.

“What is it, then?”

He pulls another arrow, resisting the urge to reach up and adjust his hair. “A sash or a scarf, if you want. Not. A. Hair. Bow.”

“If you say so, partner.” Jesse spins the cylinder and it clicks into position. “It still stands, your sash is like waving a pretty gold flag. A big, ‘Hey, here I am!’ to everybody lookin’ for you. And it’s attached to your head.” He follows this up with a series of shots that the target takes diagonally across the torso, four neat little holes. Compared to Mei’s blaster and Hanzo’s storm bow, his shots are painfully loud. But Jesse’s hearing is already half-gone at this point so it bothers him little.

Hanzo, on the other hand, winces before glaring at Jesse while rubbing the muscle beneath his ear. “Forget the spurs, your weapon would alert a thousand enemies to your presence. It is a wonder you are not dead already.”

“We all have our specialties,” he grins, firing off two more shots in quick succession through the head of the target, and it rotates around to reset. “Mine just happens to draw a crowd.”

Hanzo fires again, the second arrow landing a hair’s breadth from the first. “I find it hard to believe you were a member of Blackwatch.”

“You heard about that, huh?” Jesse reloads, fingers performing the familiar motion by rote. He does not elaborate further, curious to see where Hanzo’s going with this. Curious and a little wary, as Hanzo pulls another arrow and lingers with it in his hand, studying the arrowhead.

“I was under the impression it was covert operations,” Hanzo says. “It does not bring to mind your loudness. Or your flair for the dramatic.”

Jesse snorts at that. A deep conversation about Blackwatch and all that came with it? He is not sure if he is up for all that right now. But this, he can handle. “I bet.” He holsters his gun and turns to face the staggered row of targets across from them, hand hovering, ready to strike. Then he draws, fanning the hammer and embedding six bullets, one in each of six targets. A near-perfect line. Maybe a little high on the right. After, he spins his revolver back into its holster, watching the life indicator lights go out one by one. “Maybe I was just tired of livin’ in the dark.”

He is expecting Hanzo to be looking at the targets but when he turns back the archer is trained on him, something unreadable in his features. Something different than the normal annoyance and underlying hostility that has been sent Jesse’s way since the day they met. McCree nearly starts running his mouth to cover the sudden uncomfortable heat that feels like it is filling his head, but Hanzo spares him by turning and firing a third arrow. It slots neatly into place between the first two, right on the bullseye. “That is something I can understand,” he replies.

They settle into a companionable silence, then. As silent as a firing range can be with periodic bursts of gunfire. It lasts the better part of an hour, until Genji appears at the doorway. The brothers’ exchange is in their native tongue, and Jesse knows when he should make himself scarce. With a final tip of his hat at Hanzo, he heads out, feeling pretty good about the whole encounter.

---

Leaving was a mistake.

No, correction. Leaving the Shimada brothers alone was a mistake.

And McCree knows a thing or two about mistakes.

Jesse is not sure what was said between Hanzo and Genji after he left the firing range, but whatever it was caused Hanzo to retreat back to his quarters almost permanently. Instead of occasionally joining the group for meals or training he has taken to eating at odd hours when no one is around, only going to the kitchens to get his meal then consuming it in his private rooms. Winston says that Hanzo is still logging in training time but hardly anyone sees him. If they do it is just a fleeting glance before Hanzo makes himself scarce again.

On the flip side, Genji has made fast friends with almost all the new recruits. They’re young; not as young as McCree was when Blackwatch picked him up, but the Meka driver Hana is only a few years older. She and Lúcio are loud and colorful, filling any room they enter despite their size, and Genji takes to them quickly. And Zenyatta makes an effort to socialize despite the frankly baffling amount of time he spends meditating, in Jesse’s opinion. There is reflection and then there is damn boredom, but Jesse never was one to sit idle. If any of his old superior officers were still alive they could vouch for that.

It is not to say that everything else is coming up roses, of course. Zarya has about as much trust for Genji as she has for Zenyatta, which is to say none whatsoever. The only reason she kept her comments to herself regarding the cyborg was because he had seniority in the organization; Zenyatta does not have that luxury. She made a formal complaint to Winston the day he arrived and steadfastly refused to go on missions with the monk. That did not last long; they do not have the numbers to be picky and choosy about who goes where and when, but Zarya made her unhappy opinion about working with omnics, and omnics in general, known. Loudly. Zenyatta, for his part, has taken it in stride and cedes to what Winston thinks best, but that situation will have to be dealt with sooner or later. Add on this new Vishkar representative Symmetra--and why do they all have to have these quirky little callsigns? What happened to just using your name like a normal person?--and her and Lúcio’s instant animosity for each other, and tensions are running high around Watchpoint: Gibraltar.

Frankly, Jesse hopes Winston takes them all to task or shows them the door. There is no room for attitude in Overwatch anymore. Look where it got them last time.

Which makes this discussion all the more outrageous. “Are you shittin’ me?”

“There’s no need for that sort of language,” Winston says haughtily, tapping a few keys on the keyboard at his station before bringing his attention fully to the group assembled around him. Jesse could never understand how those big fingers hit those tiny keys. “And no, I am not. It was a nice gesture on Genji’s part, but--”

“You have got to be shittin’ me,” Jesse repeats, disbelieving, hands settling angrily on his hips. “You send out a recall and take damn near anybody that can sling a rock at the enemy, and you want to get rid of one of the best fighters we got?”

“He isn’t making an effort to become part of this team. We have to be able to work together. Hanzo is a fine archer, but he is just one man. He can’t go into every battle acting like a one-man assault team!” Winston takes his glasses off to check for specks and motions at the others. “I am not the only one that sees it as a problem.”

Jesse looks around the group gathered there, all original members of Overwatch. Lena, Torbjörn, Reinhardt, and Angela all look various degrees of guilty. Genji just looks resolute. “Well?” Jesse demands.

“He seems like he could be a nice enough guy, luv, but it just isn’t working out, is it?” Lena holds up her hand and starts ticking off fingers. “He isn’t showing up for team practices, he goes off on his own during missions, he either argues with everyone or gives them the cold shoulder.”

“You’ve barely been in the field with him, Jesse. It’s very hard to keep track of him and keep everyone else alive,” Angela adds, her hands wrapped around a warm mug of what is probably her tenth cup of coffee today.

Jesse is not buying that for a second. “You keep up with Tracer just fine.”

“Tracer uses her communicator,” Angela argues, giving Lena a thankful nod. “I can’t heal someone if they’ve disappeared to some rooftop without a word.”

“He’s a damn archer assassin, of course he’s used to workin’ alone,” he argues. “That’s probably all he knows how to do!”

“It’s clear the boy doesn’t want to be here,” Torbjörn states. “He has to learn how to work with us, or someone is going to die. Probably him. It wouldn’t be the first time. Face it; some people just aren’t cut out for Overwatch.” Next to him, Reinhardt just gives a sad shake of his head.

“Uh huh. So, what I’m hearin’ is, he’s used to doin’ things different, and y’all can’t figure out how to speak to ‘em. Even though I know in your free time you ain’t exactly seekin’ him out, what with doin’ research, or buildin’ in the workshop, or workin’ out at the gym.” Nobody meets his eye at that. Jesse wishes he was not inside so he could spit in disgust. “When was the last time anyone of you tried to talk to him other than Genji?”

“We speak before and during--” Winston starts, but Jesse shakes his head.

“I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout mission run-downs ‘n comm chatter!” He can feel his cheeks going warm; his accent always gets heavier when he is upset, and he hates that it broadcasts his feelings so easily. “I’m talkin’ ‘bout actually talkin’ to him! Not hidin’ behind formality!”

Winston is growing agitated, Jesse can tell. This is not going the way he had planned. “He isn’t here for the cause. The only reason he came to Overwatch is because Genji extended the invitation. Our end goal is not any concern of his.”

“Well, that’s not fair,” Lena pipes up, frowning. “He said the day he got here that he would help however he could. And he has helped...even if his methods are different. Last mission he had the highest kill count of all of us.”

Jesse nods approvingly, and Winston can see he is losing control of the situation. “We aren’t here to discuss his statistics on the battlefield; we’re here to discuss his ability to work with Overwatch as a whole and have everyone fight seamlessly together!”

McCree turns on Genji then, who has been markedly silent throughout the discussion. “What about you, then? You want him gone, too?”

Genji’s arms unfold from their crossed position over his chest, his head shaking slowly. “No. I believe my brother is right where he needs to be.” His head drops just slightly. “Hanzo has always been more private than myself, but his current behavior is because of me.”

“That talk y’all had at the range.”

“I may have forgiven my brother his actions in the past, but he has not forgiven himself. I am not sure if he ever will. It is possible I should have just left him be.”

“Did you?”

The ninja tilts his head. “Did I what?”

“Forgive him?”

Angela shifts uncomfortably. “Jesse…”

“I did. I have,” Genji corrects. “He is not insensitive to how you all feel. But he is a man of complicated emotions. If he has the chance, I know he will come around. It will take time.”

“We don’t have time to deal with this sort of thing,” Torbjörn says with a bored sigh, his mind already back in his workshop.

Jesse shakes his head. He feels like he is channeling Ana right now, annoyance warring with disappointment. Turning, he paces a small circuit for a moment, gathering his thoughts before rounding on them again. “You wanna know what I think? I think all y’all see when you look at him is what he did to Genji.”

“Jesse!” Angela gasps, admonishing. But Jesse thinks they need to hear this.

“No, let’s not ignore the elephant in the room. Genji, partner, what he did was awful, and we all got feelin’s about it. Hell, when you first brought up bringin’ him on, I thought you’d fallen off the turnip truck. You’ve got a hell of a lot of forgiveness in you, and it’s plumb inspirin’, really.” He looks at the others around him. “I understand it’s hard for some of you to look at him and not see everything he did. I get that. But Genji says he’s moved on and wants Hanzo here, and I trust Genji’s word that he should be here. It’s good enough for me. If y’all had a problem with it, you should have said so before. As far as his methods...shit. Blackwatch would have snatched him up in a quick minute if they’d had the chance. Onery as he is, he’d have fit right in. And I mean that as a compliment, not an insult.”

Winston crosses his arms. “And what of Overwatch? Whatever he said, his motives are personal. He doesn’t care about the mission.”

“I didn’t either, when I was recruited,” Jesse stresses the last word, reaching up to adjust his serape a little higher around his throat. “And speakin’ as someone who was gang-pressed to join himself, I’d say Shimada is transitionin’ about as well as to be expected. How can you expect him to turn over a new leaf if y’all don’t give him a chance? Y’all walk on tip-toes around him, worried he’s gonna snap at any minute, of course he’s gonna notice. You’re settin’ him up for failure.”

“Maybe Jesse is right,” Reinhardt says. “Before, Morrison or Reyes or Ana would have made an effort to get to know new recruits and help them find their fit. We have been so busy, and it was never our job to do so. We cannot just be agents, now. We have to be more.”

The doors to Winston’s lab slide open then and the group turns in unison as Mei walks in, her hands out in front of her holding a little object. She takes a few steps before faltering under their gaze, feeling the underlying tension in the room. “Um. Am I interrupting?”

“Nah, I think we’re done here,” Jesse says, his voice not showing a hint of his earlier anger. “Whatcha got there, snow pea?”

She brightens up and comes over, holding the fragile little thing between her hands. “Look! It’s a snowflake!” she enthuses, showing the group. Between her palms is a twelve-pointed origami snowflake. Half of the folds are pure white and the others have a sheen of fine glitter on them, making it shimmer like its namesake. It looks near-perfect, the blunting of the edges probably from Mei carrying it down here. “Shimada-san made it for me. I thought I could hang it over my work station. Isn’t it pretty?”

The others shift uncomfortably while Jesse just manages to share a smug look with Genji over Mei’s head. “Yeah, I’d say that’s right beautiful.”

---

Hanzo is absent from dinner that night, which surprises no one. But, perhaps more so than ever, his absence is genuinely felt, at least by those that were at the little meeting earlier. Lena looks particularly forlorn about it, pushing her food around her plate and letting her gaze wander from the empty seats at the other end of the table to McCree.

After dinner she catches up with Jesse and together they first swing by the firing range then head to Hanzo’s room and knock on the door, but Athena’s voice pipes helpfully from the overhead speakers, “Agent Hanzo Shimada is currently out of his quarters.”

“Bollocks,” Lena curses, sighing and looking up at Jesse. “This is awful.”

Jesse wonders if he is out stalking the grounds somewhere, but knows trying to hunt him down across the entirety of Watchpoint: Gibraltar could take all night and still have them coming up empty. “He might’ve found a shady spot to meditate.”

Lena gives the wall next to Hanzo’s door a soft kick, lacking in force, before settling her hands on her hips. “You were right, earlier.”

“Now, I don’t hear that nearly often enough. If you feel up to recording that I’d be much obliged.” He laughs when she gives him a sharp elbow to the rib.

“I mean it! I forget that not everyone just clicks, you know? We’ve all got a history, but Hanzo’s history’s only with Genji, and it isn’t pretty. I shouldn’t just expect him to just start being all friendly. I just didn’t want to come off as a nosy parker…”

“Pardon, a what?”

“Nosy parker. You know, all in his business,” she states, walking away with him in tow. “And, I admit, it is hard to just forget the Genji thing. I mean...he was so…” Lena wraps her arms around herself, and Jesse nods in agreement. They were both there the night the transport arrived carrying Angela and what was left of Genji Shimada. Jesse had thought she was bringing back a corpse; there was no way someone with those kinds of injuries should have lived. And Genji will never know it, but some of Jesse’s own blood now runs through his veins. There had not been time to wait for more of his bloodtype to be brought back to base, and Jesse had been the best donor available for a direct transfusion. He has seen a lot of horrible things in his life, but the way Genji looked lying on that medical bed across from Jesse will be seared into his memory forever.

So, yes, he can understand where Lena is coming from on this. But at the same time, Jesse has a tendency to lean more on the forgiveness side of things than most of his teammates. “It ain’t our place to cast that kinda judgement. It’s Genji’s. He was the one wronged.” He tugs off his hat and runs a hand through his hair before replacing it. “I’ve done my fair share of misdeeds. Not everyone gets to come to Overwatch with a clean slate.”

“I know,” she says, softer, understanding. Steeling her resolve, she straightens and pats his arm. “Right you are. I’ll think of something we can do, and tomorrow I’ll find Hanzo.”

“That’s great.”

“And I won’t take no for an answer!”

“Ah, well, I didn’t mean for you to--”

“He’ll be a part of the family in no time! Oh! And I should start working on the others, too! Just because we share a bite and a laugh doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make more of an effort in our spare time. It’s too bad there isn’t a pub around here. But first, Hanzo. With a little hard work, a little patience, Bob’s your uncle and Fanny’s your aunt, we’ll be in business!”

“I honestly got no idea what just came out of your mouth?”

“Now you know how it feels, luv.”

---

Jesse wakes with a startled gasp, his hand coming up to his throat and palming the flesh there desperately. Blinding panic and phantom restrictions make him struggle for air, clawing at something that is not there. Chest heaving, body shaking, it takes him a few seconds in the dark for his eyes to adjust and remember where he is. Once the pertinent points seep into his mind--Gibraltar, his room, alone--his hand searches out Peacekeeper in the darkness and he holds the gun close, pressing the smooth length of the barrel to his forehead and closing his eyes while his heartbeat steadies. His mind trips over the old mantra: breathe, breathe, just breathe, you can breathe, you’re alive, you’re alive, you’re alive.

As the adrenaline fades to tremors, Jesse feels the sweat clinging to his skin, overly hot and cold at the same time. Absently he notes that his blankets are in a tangled knot around his legs.

Swallowing, he pushes the fabric free and gets to his feet, going to his cubicle of a bathroom. There is enough ambient light that he can make out the important features and he turns on the sink, splashing cool water over his face one-handed. He does not like what he sees in the mirror, so he simply does not look. The bottle of sleeping pills Angela prescribed him sits perched on the back of the sink, neat little label telling him ‘One before sleep. Use as needed.’

“No thanks,” he mutters, shutting the water off with a quick turn of the knob. His arm aches, his throat aches, his head aches. It is just one of those nights. A peek at the clock shows two in the morning and as much as he should try he knows his sleeping is done for the night. Tomorrow is going to be hell.

He could go for a drink.

First things first. Even though the remains of Jesse’s left arm feel sore and sensitive, he pulls the prosthetic on the stump and secures it in place with a soft hiss. While finding fresh boxers he does the customary flex and bend of the joints to make sure everything is in working order. An old pair of jeans stretched and threadbare and an undershirt that does not smell of his own musk but clean cotton and laundry has him feeling a little more at ease. He foregoes his boots, just socks to deal with the cold metal floors, and wraps his serape securely around his neck. That is all the dressing he is up for tonight; as late as it is, if he runs into anyone in the hall they can keep any comments about his bedhead to themselves.

Sleepless nights are commonplace for Jesse McCree. When he was on his own he would usually end up walking the streets on nights like this, which inevitably lead to him finding trouble. At least with Overwatch he has safe halls to roam. No trouble to be found here.

Or, maybe not. As Jesse approaches the common room, he sees the white glow of light moving along the floor and can hear Japanese. Two people talking. At first he hopes against hope that maybe Hanzo and Genji are in there talking, but neither of them have the metallic tinge to their voices, and then there is a swell of dramatic music that puts it to rest.

There is an old black-and-white playing on the screen, samurai arranged around a courtyard facing a man in the center on a white platform. Hanzo has his back to the door but Jesse can see the top of his head and his tied hair sticking up over the back of the couch. The angle is off, though. Probably slumped over. The archer shifts and the bottom of a bottle comes into view as he takes a long drink of plum wine.

That explains a lot, Jesse thinks, padding silently into the kitchen area and retrieving a bottle of whiskey and a glass. When he turns back, Hanzo has sat up with eyes trained on him like a startled coyote poised to flee. “Sorry, don’t mind me,” Jesse says, holding up his bottle to show Hanzo his intentions.

Hanzo relaxes, barely, and watches as Jesse comes around and stands where Hanzo had stood last time they were in this position. Squinting at the bright white of the scene for a long moment, he finally asks, “This got subtitles?”

“I...am not sure,” Hanzo replies.

Jesse offers a hand out for the tablet that Hanzo used to bring the movie up. “D’you mind?”

Hanzo passes it over and Jesse sets down the bottle and glass so he can pause it and tap through some menus. Then, as if he cannot help himself, Hanzo comments, “At least you do not want English dubbing.”

“Shit, no,” Jesse smirks. “Movie this old, I’m sure that would be awful. Voice-overs never have the right tone, anyway. I might need to read the words but this way I still get the feel of the scene, you know? Ah, there we are.” Suddenly little white text appears at the bottom of the screen corresponding to the dialogue. Jesse puts the tablet down on the table and takes a seat at the other end of the couch to start working on the lid of the bottle. “What are we watchin’?”

Hanzo looks torn between telling Jesse to leave and being too drunk to care. He watches the other man pour himself a full glass of whiskey. “....Harakiri.”

“I take it you don’t mind if I indulge?” McCree asks, setting the bottle on the table in front of them.

“No.” Hanzo lifts his flask and says, “The greatest delicacies taste of nothing when one dines alone.”

“I wouldn’t call Jack Daniel’s a delicacy, but I get the sentiment,” Jesse replies, lifting his own glass in toast. They both take a drink and Jesse lets out a bit more of a wheeze when he breathes out after. “You’ve got a run on me, partner, I’m gonna have to catch up.”

The archer settles back against the couch again. Now McCree notices his normal kyudo gi has been replaced by a navy jinbei top, though he does not actually know that is the proper term for it. A white t-shirt is underneath, one of the standard-issue ones that they buy in bulk around here. Jesse always grabs a few if he is going to be on an overnight mission; you would be surprised how many uses you can find for a plain white t-shirt.

Following Hanzo’s lead, Jesse relaxes and turns toward the movie as the other man hits play. “Harakiri, you said? That sounds familiar.”

“It is also called seppuku.”

“Aw, shit, you mean when they…” He trails off, using his hand to demonstrate cutting his own stomach from left to right.

“Ritual disembowelment,” Hanzo confirms.

“Gah!” Jesse is going to down this drink a little faster if he is going to have to deal with this. “I knew that sounded familiar. I’ve heard about it before. They show it?”

Hanzo considers that. “Artistically,” he allows.

Jesse gulps down half his tumbler in one go, gasping loudly before setting it on his knee. “Alright. Fill me in. What’s going on?”

“You do not want me to start it over?”

“Nah, it’s too late for all that. Give me the run-down.”

So Hanzo does, quickly explaining that the young man dressed in white is Chijiwa Motome, a masterless ronin. Rather than live in poverty with no hope of finding a paying job in a country now peaceful and prosperous, Motome came to the estate of the Ii clan and requested the use of their courtyard to commit harakiri, to die with honor as a samurai should.

But, in these times of prosperity, the ways of the bushido are beginning to soften and fade to more modern customs. While honorable, to those that do not follow the old ways it is seen as wasteful. Unsightly. Undignified. It became well known that one such samurai was so resolute in his standing that he insisted and the daimyo of the house, overwhelmed and humbled by the ronin’s resolve, offered instead a place of employment in his ranks.

Of course, out of the thousands of ronin now wandering Japan aimless and unemployable because swordsmanship is not needed in a country at peace, charlatans emerged from their ranks. Ronin without honor that approached samurai clans would demanded their right to perform harakiri in their courtyards, a form of suicide bluff, and the clans resorted to paying them money just to get them to leave. The practice of extorting money with the threat began to pop up all over Japan.

Which brings them to Motome, whom the clan suspects is one of these extortionists. Jesse watches, fascinated, as the young man begs for a few days respite before returning to commit the ritual. “So, obviously he looks guilty, if he’s trying to get out of it.”

“So it would seem,” Hanzo agrees enigmatically. Across from him, Jesse cringes as the man acting as Motome’s second describes the procedure.

“Ah, God, they have to make two cuts?”

“Yes.”

“You’re tellin’ me that he has to slice himself open twice?”

“To make a cross. It is the proper way.”

“Fuckin’ hell, samurai don’t mess around, do they?” Then his mouth falls open as they bring out Motome’s blades to the stand, revealing that they are nothing but bamboo. “Oh, shit, no. No! Tell me they ain’t gonna make him do this!”

But they do, forcing Motome to perform harakiri on himself using his own blunted bamboo sword. It is long and drawn out as the character has to stab himself again and again to force the blade into his own body. The blood is theatrical but the way it was filmed makes it all the more harsh, black blood standing out against the white of the platform and his robes. Jesse squirms in sympathy and looks away to see that even Hanzo looks effected, though he keeps his eyes on the screen. After there is a hard cut from the flashback to the main character, Tsugumo Hanshirō, and Hanzo takes another draw of his plum wine.

“Hell of a way to die,” Jesse says, following his lead with his own drink.

“They thought they were doing what was right. Showing the other clans they were not weak, following the old ways. That they were still honorable followers of bushido.” Hanzo thumbs the edge of his canteen, swallowing. “They were wrong.”

“That, I got. They didn’t have to show the whole damn thing.”

Hanzo gives him a look. “You don’t have to watch it.”

“Well, now I do! I gotta see what happens! Ain’t no way that was what it looked like.” Jesse points at the screen knowingly. “That Motome or whatever his name was had somethin’ else goin’ on. I’d bet my hat on it.” Hanzo’s gaze lingers on him a long moment before he returns his attention back to the story.

Jesse gets sucked into the story despite it being almost completely dialogue, following the tale of Motome and Hanshirō: the unfortunate set of circumstances that led Motome to his horrible fate, the broken family he was forced to leave behind, the impossible scenario Hanshirō constructed to show the House of Ii just how shallow and fake they really were. Explanations end up not being necessary with how thoroughly things are explained and rehashed. He even forgets to refill his glass once it is empty. The style kind of reminds him of the westerns he likes; action only taken when necessary, movements, always having a purpose, a lot of tension being built by silence and expectation.

“They shot him?” Jesse shakes his head as the red armor of Ii is shown in closeup and the character for harakiri flashes up on the screen, ending the movie. “All that talk about livin’ by a code and they just shot him?”

Hanzo grunts. His flask is all but drained by now and he looks three sheets to the wind, listing heavily to the right leaning on the arm of the couch. “No one was to find out,” he slurs, but just slightly. He holds his liquor well but he is not as heavy-set as McCree. “Everyone else would have heard the story as they wanted it told. The winners write the history books. If the attendant had not found the top knots...everyone would have moved on. No one would have doubted the honor...the power, of the illustrious House of Shimada. But it was all for nothing.” His voice turns morose, then, eyes focusing on nothing. “All of the prestige and the dignity. All the lives they ruined. It was for nothing. This thing we call samurai honor is ultimately nothing but a facade.”

There’s a long pause before Jesse says carefully. “House of Ii, you mean.”

The archer blinks twice, realizing his misstep. “Yes. House of Ii.”

On the screen, the picture fades to black as it ends then the generic Athena background appears, a sudden wash of blue across the room and its occupants.

“In the days after, I cut off my top knot, too,” Hanzo says dully. His fingers reach up and gingerly touch the uneven strands that stick up from his sash. “If there was any honor in me, I would have performed seppuku myself. But I could not even bring myself to do that.”

There’s a familiar tightening in Jesse’s throat that makes him want to choke. He is either too drunk or too sober for this. “You know--”

“I am not a fool,” Hanzo cuts him off, clumsily reattaching his canteen to the sash at his waist. “I know they want me gone.”

Jesse is taken aback by the sudden change in topic, but he is sober enough to switch gears. “There ain’t nobody that wants you gone…” he trails off at the Hanzo’s unimpressed look. “A’ight, they ain’t too happy with you right now, but can you blame ‘em?”

“No. They have every right to fear me.”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” McCree says, lips quirking up to one side.

“They think I am dangerous. That I will get one of them killed. That I am not here for the cause, the mission. That I am not cut out for Overwatch.”

The way Hanzo’s voice colors bitter near the end makes something click in Jesse’s head. “You were listenin’ in, earlier.” The archer says nothing, staring ahead. “Well ain’t you a little barn owl.”

“As you said, I am an assassin, it is what I was trained to do,” Hanzo says defensively, but it becomes clear Jesse is more impressed than irritated. “I do not know why you defended me so adamantly.”

“I…” Jesse looks down at his hands, one flesh-and-blood and one intricate metal, and clasps them between his knees to keep from fidgeting with his serape. “Someone stuck up for me like that, once. More than once,” he finally says, sincerely. “Overwatch didn’t want me for...similar reasons. Shoulda been thrown in a cell and forgotten about.”

“You were a criminal?” Hanzo asks slowly, taking this in.

He hums. “Deadlock Gang. You probably haven’t heard of--”

“Even the yakuza have heard of the Deadlock Gang.” It is like Hanzo is seeing McCree in a new light. “Weapons traffickers. My father mentioned having a run-in with them.”

“Oh yeah?”

“He said, ‘Stay away from Deadlock territory. It is not worth the men you will lose.’”

Jesse clicks his tongue. “High praise from an assassin. But yeah, that sounds about right.”

“They still exist,” Hanzo points out. Not like the Shimada Empire, a shambles of what it used to be. After Genji’s supposed death and Hanzo’s self-imposed exile, their uncles squabbled over the remains of the organization. It lasted for years before one of them wrested control from the others. But without Hanzo and Genji, without the dragons, they are but a husk of what they were before. “They cannot be very happy you are still alive and free.”

“No, they ain’t. I got a pretty big bounty on my head, bigger’n what it was before I got pinched. It’s why I ain’t supposed to go to the southwest of the US without escort. Not that it stopped me when I was on my own, but now everybody’s got an eye out for me. The only reason Winston’s got me goin’ on missions near there is cause I know the area. Hell, I know Deadlock Gorge like the back of my hand. I’m guessin’ he’ll want you and Genji goin’ to Hanamura for the same reasons, once you’re up for it.”

Hanzo pulls a face at that but avoids it for now. “They do not trust me to do my job.”

“You haven’t given them much reason to, partner. Hey, listen,” he says when Hanzo huffs. “I know we haven’t worked together much yet, but from what I’ve seen you ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at. You pull your weight plenty. You’re an assassin; gettin’ the kill isn’t the problem. But you’ve gotta at least try to get along with the others. This ain’t Hanzo’s Assassin Squad; it’s Overwatch.”

The archer casts his eyes to the side. “I am not used to this,” he admits. “Even before my exile, we were trained to work alone. We were to be self-sufficient. There was no need to trust others when you could carry out a plan yourself.”

“But now the plans are bigger than just one of us,” Jesse continues. “And we ain’t scientists or humanitarians. And people like Mei, they ain’t soldiers. She’s gotta trust you and me to get her where she needs to be. So, we gotta trust her to do what she’s there to do. It’s a two-way street.”

“I don’t know how to act around them,” Hanzo says.

Jesse is pretty sure that he would never say as much if he were sober. “You do just fine around me.” He chews the inside of his cheek, thinking. “I’d say that things’d go better if you got on better terms with your brother, but I can understand that’s a tough row to hoe.”

“A...what?” He shakes his head of his confusion. “I have tried to speak with him, but...it is difficult. We fall back into old habits.”

“I hear siblings are like that. So, just start talkin’. To Genji, to the others. I can see you’re capable. Hang out with Mei some more; everyone likes the little snow pea. They’ll see you gettin’ along with her, they’ll know you can’t be that bad. And hey, come down to the range with me. You’re a helluva lot better company than some of’em that only complain about their aim. Better range etiquette, too.”

Hanzo gives a reluctant nod. “Very well. And you are less of an annoyance to practice with than I had expected.”

“Just glad I’m on your mind, sug,” Jesse grins, standing. He thinks Hanzo might flush at that, but considering the alcohol coursing through his veins that might just be the heat from the drink. Either way the archer stumbles a little and Jesse steadies him with his prosthetic. “You gonna make it, partner?”

“I will manage.” They begin to file out, heading down the hall towards their separate rooms. “By the way, your Japanese pronunciation. It is surprisingly accurate.”

“You’ve heard me speakin’ Japanese?”

“A few words during the movie. And to my brother.”

“Aw, can’t have been that good. I picked up some stuff from Genji; you know, when you’re bored waitin’ for a mission. But I’d always have to come back and look it all up. Little shit would always give me the wrong translations.”

Hanzo gives a faint laugh, a soft fading thing that Jesse would miss if he was any further away. “That sounds like Genji...I think.” With that, Hanzo bids him goodnight, leaving Jesse with the morning sun.

Chapter Text

Things do not get better immediately; interpersonal problems in a group this big rarely get solved overnight, after all, and Jesse is not some sort of therapist or Hanzo-whisperer by any means. There are still some that question Hanzo’s presence at Overwatch as well as Genji’s sanity for even suggesting it in the first place. But, barring a few choice individuals from his past, Jesse thinks he can get a pretty good read on people if he has a chance. His instincts tell him Hanzo just needs time to adjust and the rest will follow suit. He is obviously a man working through a minefield of issues, something to which Jesse can relate. Hell, all of them can relate. The only difference is while Hanzo keeps everything safe and private locked behind a steel wall, Jesse jokes and flaunts and hides his insecurities behind flashes of red and a twirling gun.

So, things do not get better immediately. But the following evening Hanzo makes an appearance at dinner. Jesse misses it, because of course he does. He gets called away on a quick smash-and-grab errand for Winston that is easy enough for just himself and Tracer to handle. It keeps them away until late in the evening so they both miss dinner and the chance to socialize.

Typically, organized dinners are not really a thing at Overwatch; you can never tell who is going to be there at any given time, the agents’ internal clocks get all out of whack from being in other time zones for long missions, sometimes they just do not feel up for company, or any number of other factors that might hinder whoever is cooking. Somedays someone will decide they want to make a meal big enough for everyone, but usually it is a free-for-all.

It was one of those kind of nights. Quiet and unobtrusive, Hanzo found himself a place at the end of the table furthest from the kitchen and ate without disturbing anyone. No fanfare, no rubbing elbows, no hours of loud laughter. Just his presence in the room and no heated glares sent anyone’s way.

The next morning sees a repeat performance with Hanzo eating some sliced fruit and a bowl of white rice in the same spot, the other agents moving in and out of the kitchen getting their morning meals. This time Jesse is there, coffee in hand. He is expected for debriefing from the night before so he does not have time to linger, but Jesse makes a point of giving Hanzo a friendly nod and a smile on his way out. When he tells the archer, “Mornin’,” Hanzo responds in kind and nods right back. He is trying.

The morning after that, Mei finds a place to Hanzo’s right and monopolizes his attention fairly thoroughly with a chat about chopsticks of all things. Seems Winston does a pretty good job of keeping Overwatch supplied with plenty of disposable utensils including chopsticks, the kind you can find in any Asian restaurant that need to be snapped in half to be functional. In other words, cheap. But both Mei and Hanzo carry their own; Hanzo’s a gorgeous sandalwood with gold end caps inscribed with the Japanese kanji for happiness, and Mei’s ebony capped with mother of pearl, a gift from her father. After a comparison, mutual complementing of dinnerware, and bashing of Winson’s purchasing choices, the conversation meanders to all the interesting chopsticks they have seen over the years. At the other end of the table, Hana looks at her own cheap balsa-wood sticks she got from the silverware drawer and frowns, wondering if she can find overnight shipping on some pink bunny chopsticks.

Mei also not-so-subtly scoots a clean napkin into Hanzo’s space. By the end of the meal it is turned into an origami lotus. It won’t last the day without getting crumpled, but Mei looks delighted all the same. Hanzo’s lips twitch into a smile as she carries it off with her when she heads to the lab.

The improvement does not go unnoticed.

---

When Jesse shows up for Mei’s next firearms lesson, Hanzo is already there. Mei is sitting cross-legged on the ground giving her endothermic blaster a once-over and chattering like a magpie about her latest work while Hanzo fires arrow after arrow into the target across from him.

“--and it turned out that the couplings I was using had a much higher nil ductility temperature than expected, and it shattered right there in the holder! It made such a mess! So that means I’ll need Winston to order a metal more appropriate for the experiment or I’ll never be able to--oh! Agent McCree, hi!” she greets, getting to her feet. It’s punctuated by the loud thunk of an arrow embedding into the target, about four inches off-center.

Jesse’s carrying two boxes of his normal ammunition and another board box of similar size under his prosthetic arm, and he waves her off as he approaches. “Snow pea, I told you, there ain’t no need for formalities. Jesse’s fine.” His eyes linger on the other man for a moment, lazy smile blooming. For his part Hanzo spares the two of them a glance over the shoulder before pulling another arrow. “You been practicing?”

Mei nods quickly. “Yes sir, er, Jesse. I made time every day, like you said.”

“And how are you feeling about it?” Jesse asks, setting his boxes of ammunition down on the bench.

“Good! I think I’m getting better.” She makes an uncomfortable face and rubs at her arm through her thin t-shirt. “I’m more sore than I expected to be, though.”

Jesse nods. “Ah, yeah, that will happen. Give it time and your muscles will get used to the strain. ‘Least you don’t have much recoil to deal with. If it starts hurtin’ you too much, go on and see Angela about it. It’s pretty common when you pick up a new weapon, but let’s get you comfortable with this one before we start addin’ to your arsenal.”

“You can use something other than a revolver?” she asks. Behind her, Hanzo glances over at him again, curiosity getting the best of him.

“Aw, yeah, I know my way around my fair share of firearms,” Jesse replies. He slips his finger between the flimsy cardboard of the ammo boxes and snaps the tape holding the lids on one by one. “Helps to be versatile. Got trainin’ in assault rifles, long-range weapons, grenades, the usual military gear. My old commanding officer, he was a stickler for that sorta thing. He’d go through weapons faster than Torbjörn goes through turrets.”

“Wow,” she breathes, impressed. Mei turns toward Hanzo. “Do you use more than your bow, Shimada-san?”

Hanzo gives a short hum of acknowledgment, lowering his storm bow and facing her to speak properly. “My training was very similar to Genji’s. I was trained with the katana and wakizashi, as was he. Genji took to shuriken much more readily than I did.”

“So Genji learned the bow, too?”

“Genji…” He chuckles, low in his throat. “Genji put an arrow through my mother’s favorite silk painting. That was the end of his training with the bow.”

The other two laugh at that, Jesse making a note to tease Genji about that later. He wonders how many stories Genji has edited over the years to make his younger self look better. And how many of those stories he can wheedle out of Hanzo. “So what made you pick the bow?” Jesse asks, slowly loading Peacekeeper as he listens.

“I did not, at first,” Hanzo admits, considering the bow in his hands. His fingers trace the smooth edges of the grip. “I always liked ranged lessons, but my father wished me to master the katana so that is where most of my time was devoted. He thought my skills would be of more use with a blade. If I am to be honest, though, my heart was always more at home with the bow.”

“You’ve certainly got the eye for it,” Jesse says, nodding toward the series of arrows clustered on the target across the range.

Hanzo tilts his head in thanks for the compliment. “The other reason Genji hated our marksmanship lessons.” He gives another soft laugh. “I am glad to see his aim has improved, at least now that he has gone back to the shuriken.”

“So why don’t you carry around a katana like Genji does?” Mei asks. “In case you need it?”

The smile slides off Hanzo’s face like water and his eyes dart away, whole body turning back to the range. “I no longer use bladed weapons,” he states.

There is a finality to the statement that brings Mei up short, and she realizes her misstep. She might not have known the story of the Shimada brothers when she joined Overwatch, but the other agents had quietly and thoroughly filled her in. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have--”

Hanzo strikes out across the firing range towards the targets and talks over her. “McCree, you should focus her training today on her stance. I believe if you stagger and pivot her leg it will take some of the pressure off the recoil on her arm.” He begins to yank the arrows out of the target and check each for damage before returning them to his quiver.

“Sounds like good advice to me,” Jesse replies, holstering Peacekeeper and putting a hand to Mei’s back, guiding her to the line. He is content to ignore the near faux pas if it means Hanzo will hang around.

“She will not be standing stationary in battle, so maintaining forward-facing stance will not be as essential,” Hanzo continues, giving the arrow that strayed wide an annoyed look before plucking it from the target. “Only a fool would stand still and exposed to take aim and fire at a target.”

Jesse pauses, then shifts his weight to one leg and props his prosthetic hand on his hip. “Only a fool, huh?” he asks sarcastically.

Hanzo looks over his shoulder and raises an eyebrow, smirking. Next to Jesse, Mei covers her mouth to hide her smile. “And an even greater fool to take aim at six,” he adds, giving that little extra push.

He is not sure why Hanzo’s words cause his cheeks to flush red, but they do. Jesse tugs his hat down a little to hide his embarrassment. “Yeah, yeah, I’m loud and flashy, I’ve heard that song before. Big words from a man with glowing heels” he replies. Hanzo’s eyes widen and he looks down at his own prosthetics. Got him there. “A’ight, now, Miss Mei. Show me what you’ve been workin’ on.”

Practice goes well. Mei might not be headed toward championship levels of marksmanship but she is quickly getting a firm grasp of using her weapon in a way that will not endanger the lives of the other agents. Two or three more weeks and Jesse thinks they will be moving on to firing in-motion and the effective use of cover. Mei looks torn between excitement and fear when he suggests that, getting an amused little laugh out of Hanzo from down the firing lanes.

While Mei finishes up Jesse goes back to his own boxes of ammunition and opens the nondescript box he had brought with him. The bullets inside look similar to what he normally uses but each one has a small colored dot on the side; red, yellow, blue, and green in nice neat little rows.

“What are those?” Mei asks, curious as he takes out a few of the red-dotted bullets and loads his gun.

“Experimental ammunition,” Jesse replies, sliding them into the chamber one by one. “Winston’s been in one of his inventing moods.”

Hanzo, who had been in the process of checking over the arrows he had used for any wear-and-tear, looks up from his bench. “I was not aware Winston dabbled in weaponry.”

“That gorilla’s got his fingers in a lot of pies,” Jesse says. He checks the little note that Winston included in the box then closes the chamber, the bullets rotating around when he spins it. “I usually don’t ask for anything fancy; my normal rounds get the job done most of the time. But every once in awhile Winston pulls out an old project to tinker with. Usually when he’s got a mental block about somethin’ else. I don’t mind playin’ guinea pig as long as he doesn’t hand me the wrong box. That’s why it’s color-coded.”

“There’s a story there,” Hanzo says knowingly. Then he narrows his eyes. “Are you sure those are safe?”

Jesse walks over to the firing line. “Nope.”

Behind him, Hanzo motions for Mei to come over to where he’s standing and tugs her back a few more feet once she is there. They watch carefully as Jesse does a few twirls with his gun, testing how the different ammunition affects the weight of his gun.

“Should we leave?” Mei keeps her voice low, as if it might break McCree’s concentration

“No,” Hanzo replies, then crosses his arms. “Just in case the cowboy needs medical attention.”

Jesse laughs, shooting a cocky grin over his shoulder. “Glad you got my back, sug. Athena, you recordin’?”

From overhead Athena’s metallic voice answers obediently, “All cameras are active and focused. Experimental test-fire of Revolver Ammunition BF-185 ready to commence, Agent McCree.”

“You’re a peach,” he says before taking a shot.

There is a secondary bang after the bullet imbeds in the target, and after a few long seconds fire licks its way out between the joints and seams. But other than that, not much happens. “Huh,” Jesse says.

“What happened?” Mei asks.

McCree walks across to the target, carefully looking it over. “Supposed to be an incendiary. Bit lack-luster, wouldn’t you say?” He clicks his tongue, waving some of the smoke away with his hand. “Sure don’t smell like roses, that’s for sure.”

“You plan on using incendiary bullets on our enemies?” Hanzo asks incredulously.

“Oh, no, none of that! Damn, nobody deserves that,” Jesse replies. The fire is already dying out without even needing an extinguisher. “Nah, these are supposed to be for destroyin’ systems and intel from a distance, or blowin’ up vehicles. I guess I was expectin’ more of a…” he makes an explosion gesture with his fingers. Raising his voice, he addresses Athena. “Preliminary assessment of incendiary bullets is less than ideal. They need more bang for their buck.”

“Noted, Agent McCree.”

By the time Jesse sets up the next test, Mei and Hanzo have taken seats on the benches they had been hiding behind. Seems they plan on staying to watch the show. That is just fine with Jesse; weapons tests are always a lot more fun with an audience.

The first shot with the yellow-dotted ammunition leaves a lot to be desired. Instead of a single bullet hole there are a scattering of about thirty impacts on the metal target, all little shallow craters that would not have much of an effect on an enemy target. Athena helpfully informs him, “Revolver Ammunition BF-186 is intended for close-range combat.”

“Close range, huh? Well, I have been gettin’ on him about that for a while now.” Jesse strolls about half the distance to the target and fires again.

The difference is staggering. More like a powerful shotgun blast, the bullet separates and tears a gaping hole in the target. A large section of one side drops off, smoldering along the edges, and other bits shatter apart to the wall behind it. Also, Jesse shouts and nearly drops Peacekeeper, transferring the gun from his gloved hand to his prosthetic. “Fuckin’ HELL!” he curses, shaking his glove off. There are little ember marks on both it and the flesh at the base of his thumb where the bullet sparked and flared.

In seconds Hanzo is there at his side and Jesse’s hand is in his gentle but firm grasp, turning him so he can see the wound. “Are you alright?” he asks, though Hanzo seems set on finding that out for himself.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m a’ight,” Jesse hisses, letting Hanzo look his fill. “Stings like a right son bitch, but I’m a’ight. Damn.”

Hanzo calls to Mei to bring the burn cream from the first aid kit by the door. “Winston should be more careful about what he gives you to test,” he says irritatedly. “What good will it do anyone to blow your hand off?”

There’s a pause, and Hanzo looks up to find Jesse has tipped his hat back and is giving him an amused look. It takes a moment for Hanzo to realize what Jesse finds so funny. When he does, Hanzo rolls his eyes. “Another hand, then.”

“Darlin’, I didn’t know you cared,” he grins.

Mei brings over the ointment and Jesse lets the scientist apply it, more concerned about the state of his glove. “Aww, hell,” he says, holding up the leather and finding three little burn holes. “I just got these broke in.”

“You should tell Winston these are not ready,” Mei frets, dragging his hand back when he tries to pull it away. “Maybe you should not try the other ones.”

“It’s just a little sting. It’ll be alright,” Jesse argues, finally getting his hand back and pulling the glove back on. He will have to go looking for another one at this rate. “Needless to say, y’all ever interested in a collection of unused left-handed gloves, I’m your man.”

Hanzo huffs a laugh. “Come; best if we move back. McCree only needs to endanger himself.”

“Ya see that, Mei? He gives his affections and takes ‘em away just as fast,” Jesse teases, walking back to change out his ammo for the green-dotted bullets. “Reset the target for me, Athena?”

There’s a mechanical whine as the targets shuffle again, the damaged one rotating away and a fresh one taking its place. “Targets reset. Experimental test-fire of Revolver Ammunition BF-187 ready to commence.”

“Normal range?”

“Standard practice distance is satisfactory.”

Jesse grumbles something about how this one better not damage anything other than the target and takes a second to consider the revolver. It feels heavier with these bullets in the chamber. “Definite weight difference,” he says aloud so Athena can record. “Makes Peacekeeper feel unbalanced.” He takes careful aim and fires.

The report is louder than normal, causing Hanzo and Mei to cover their ears. It echoes uncomfortably in the large room and Jesse has to take several stumbling steps backwards as the backfire makes his arm jump upward. “Hot damn,” he says, rotating his shoulder.

“What happened?” Hanzo asks, eyes squinting as he looks across at the target and just sees a normal, albeit slightly larger, hole.

The three of them walk over to the target and Jesse hums before stepping behind it. “Hot damn,” he repeats, grin growing as he motions for them to look. The back of the target is blown out with a hole about the size of Jesse’s fist, and there is another hole in the wall behind the target where the remains of the bullet has imbedded. “Oh, I like these,” Jesse says, holding up the gun with a grin. “These might be my new favorite.”

“What are they used for?” Mei asks, staying back while Hanzo investigates the target more thoroughly.

“Armor penetration. Usually for an impact like this you have to carry somethin’ big like an assault rifle, or like Fareeha’s rocket launcher. This here will be a lot easier to slip under the radar if I need to go covert.” He opens the chamber and pulls out a bullet, looking it over. “Still, awfully heavy.”

“This would easily stop a vehicle carrying a payload,” Hanzo comments, standing straight again and looking suitably impressed. “But I would not want to be on the other end of this shot.”

“Athena, let Winston know these need a little tweaking but they’re getting there,” Jesse says up to the ceiling. He reaches out and pokes the back of the target and a chunk of metal falls off. “Hot damn.”

They wander back to the other end of the firing range and Jesse consults the note in the box again, moving to pick up the last set of blue-dotted bullets. His hand pauses, though, and he rereads the information written in Winston’s scrawl before placing the bullet back in the box. “That’s it for today.”

Hanzo frowns but Athena beats him to the punch. “Revolver Ammunitions BF-188 requires live-fire testing.”

“These need to be scrapped,” Jesse replies brusquely, dropping the rest of the bullets back into the box in a haphazard pile and taping the lid back shut. “I ain’t testin’ those.”

There is an awkward pause before Athena replies, “Your response is noted. Agent Winston requests your presence in the laboratories.”

“I bet he does,” McCree sighs, stacking the boxes again and tucking them under his arm. “Mei, we’ll pick this up again next week. Just keep practicin’ what we talked about, and give Angela a visit about that soreness if it keeps up.”

“I will,” she promises.

Lena comes in the doors to the practice range then and she bounces from the balls of her feet to her heels and back again, hands clasped behind her back as she waits on the little group to disperse. “Good practice today?” she asks as Mei walks by.

“She’s doin’ a fine job,” Jesse says as Mei nods. He gives her a small wave that she returns before disappearing down the hall. “Somethin’ I can do for you, Lena?”

“I was hoping to talk to Hanzo, but you can help as well,” Lena replies, leaning around Jesse to shoot Hanzo a cheeky grin. “I’m here to see a man about a snowflake.”

Hanzo, who had been securing his quiver back over his shoulder, slows his movements and looks over at the other two. Lena looks far too amused for anything good to come of this. He exchanges a confused look with Jesse. “Excuse me?”

---

“No. No, I don’t believe it. There is no way that is a single piece of paper.”

“This is some sort of dark magic.”

“Or some kind of...of non-euclidian geometry.”

“Non...what?”

“I mean, like, some H.P. Lovecraft madness.”

“Is that like that game Hana plays?”

“No, and don’t bring me into this. Pay attention, he’s doing the pointy bit again.”

“It’s all pointy bits!”

Hanzo flips the paper over in his hands and begins a series of crisp folds, rotating it as he goes. Luckily no one is looking at his face or the small smile that keeps sneaking out at how ridiculous the situation is; everyone is much more focused on the motions his hands are making. When Lena had come to Hanzo with the proposal, he had not expected it would be such a spectacle. This is certainly not what he anticipated when he joined Overwatch.

Gathered around him are a substantial amount of agents, agents that are fully capable of taking out teams of enemy combatants with all manner of futuristic weaponry, all pressed close so they can watch Hanzo’s step-by-step instruction of creating origami snowflakes. It seems Mei’s birthday is coming up in a few days, and the little scientist had been keeping it mum from the others. But Zarya managed to weasel it out of her, and the strongwoman decided that Mei has missed quiet enough birthday parties for one lifetime. Lena thought a surprise party would be just the thing to get everyone together and happy in a way that does not involve the threat of Talon agents, and when the subject of decorations came around Lúcio pointed out how much Mei loved the little snowflake Hanzo made her.

To which Hana had exclaimed, “He can teach us how to make them! I mean, it’s a folded piece of paper! How hard can it be?”

Right about now Hana is regretting ever opening her big mouth. “Who knew something so small could be so complicated?”

“Isn’t that like the pot calling the kettle black?” Lúcio replies, then grunts as Hana elbows him sharply in the ribs. “Ow!”

Hanzo makes the last crease and sits back again, the others leaning over the table and his shoulders to look at the finished product and murmur about witchcraft. “Are you sure you want to make snowflakes?” Hanzo asks for the third time. “It is not a beginner’s pattern.”

“This is what Mei likes,” Zarya states firmly, pointing at the delicate little design. “If we work hard, we can make ours look like that.”

Lena claps her hands together. “Alright then! We should get started!”

And so Hanzo finds himself in the middle of a craft circle surrounded by Lena, Zarya, Hana, Lúcio, Reinhardt, and Jesse. The others are either keeping operations running or keeping Mei busy off-base so that she does not stumble upon their little origami party. Hanzo is glad for that; this many students is already plenty for him to deal with. Everyone grabs a small stack of the square-cut papers that Winston supplied in patterns of blue and white and finds a seat around the long table in the dining area. Hanzo put an example snowflake in front of each of them for reference, and took the liberty of printing out instructions that they can read so he is not constantly running from person to person showing them again.

“This is going to be so cute,” Hana says, selecting a sheet and quickly making the first fold, hands moving about as fast as her mouth. “For my birthday I want little mekas. Or bunnies. Or meka-bunnies, I’m not picky.”

“I think meka-bunnies might be out of even Hanzo’s skill set,” Reinhardt laughs. He has not even started yet, instead turning the reference snowflake over in his hands to get a good look at it from all angles. “I know that this is one paper. I saw you make it with one paper. But there is no way this is one paper.”

“It just takes patience and practice,” Hanzo replies. There is a convenient space for him to sit near the middle of the table between Hana and Lena, central enough that everyone can lean over and see what he is doing if they need help. Which he expects they will need a lot of. Across from him McCree is carefully reading over the directions one at a time.

“Yeah, too bad she didn’t like somethin’ simple, huh?” Jesse says, picking a plain 2-colored sheet for his first try. No use wasting the good stuff on what will probably be a disaster. Hanzo watches as his fingers make sweeping motions of the paper for the initial folds, his prosthetics holding it in place. “If only she was into tea parties and stuff like that. I only know how to make a cup.”

That brings Hanzo up short and he blinks, surprised. “You know origami?”

“Naw, I said I know how to make one thing; a cup. It’s pretty silly.” Jesse pushes the beginnings of the snowflake aside and gets a smaller sheet. With a few quick folds and a squeeze he has a little paper cup perched in his hand. “Ta da!”

From the looks of the others he may as well have pulled a rabbit out of the cup. “How did you do that?!” Hana demands, grabbing it and turning it to look inside. “You’re, like, a big clumsy bull, how do you know how to make cute things!?”

Jesse shakes his head, laughing at himself. “Lord, I learned that...what...when I was four or five? Some kid’s show that came on one of them local channels. Reruns of somethin’ from last century. All I remember was it had some sorta sheep puppet and in one episode they showed how to make these cups, and I guess it stuck. Go figure.” He sighs and pulls his current project back in front of him, making another fold. “Anyway, ain’t much to it, and this thing here is about fifty more steps...”

“You have a good start,” Hanzo allows, taking the origami cup from Hana to give it a once over. It is technically a little uneven but he cannot argue that it is a cup. It is on the tip of Hanzo’s tongue to send a teasing comment Jesse’s way but, if he is honest, Jesse might be one of the better pupils around the table. Best to not discourage the others.

When he looks up and meets Jesse’s gaze, though, he is pretty sure Jesse knows what he is thinking. The cowboy smirks and makes a few more folds before going back to his directions. “You didn’t strike me as the type to be into origami,” he comments.

“I know when I was a poppet I made a ton of friendship bracelets,” Lena adds, wondering if she could remember how it goes if she scrounged up some plastic cording. “And those paper fortune tellers. I guess that kind of counts as origami? But I don’t see too many kids making something this complicated.”

Hanzo shrugs it off but Hana presses, “Did you learn it when you were little?”

“No,” Hanzo replies, beginning work on a snowflake of his own. “Well, I learned the simple things everyone learns in shōgakkō, before I was old enough to start formal training. Everyone learns how to make a crane. But I picked up most of the designs I’ve learned after I became an assassin.”

“Really?” Jesse raises an eyebrow, surprised. Then he snaps his fingers and points at Hanzo, nodding knowingly. “Hurry-up-and-wait.”

Hana looks confused between the two of them when Hanzo gives a nod back. “What does that mean?”

“It is what that line of work is like,” Hanzo explains. “A lot of rushing to get from one place to another, then a lot of waiting. Waiting for information on an area, waiting for an opportunity to gain access to a building, waiting on the target to show up. Hurry up, then wait.”

Jesse’s head bobs along in agreement. “The life of a gun-for-hire ain’t all train robberies and noon-day faceoffs. Sometimes you end up waitin’ for one thing or another for days on end, bored out of your mind. Anythin’ becomes a hobby if you’re bored enough. Some folks I know picked up card tricks, or quarters, or whittlin’. One fella got pretty good with makin’ little flutes outta reeds. Sounded just like a little bird.”

“So it’s something you do when you’re bored,” Hana reasons, making another fold. It is a little crooked but that will be fine, right? “I found a vintage Game Boy at this pawn shop down the street from my house. It had the old Pokemon Red and Blue cartridges with it, it was so cool. I think I had it forever before I picked it up, though. Then I was waiting on a raid to start one night and the other players were being, just, so slow. Like, come on guys, we had a schedule to keep, right? I started playing and I swear I totally forgot that I was streaming. It was so embarrassing.” Another two folds, these half the size they are supposed to be. “But Pokemon is super old school. You picked origami?” she asks incredulously.

Hanzo cracks a smile, turning the snowflake over to start on some of the opposite folds. He is already over halfway done with this one. “It does not require much; paper is easy to find and easy to carry. It is small, and quiet, and as long as there is a flat surface you can make neat folds. And it is...temporary,” he says, eyes straying over the little pile of snowflakes he has already made. “Like the snowflakes. If I needed to destroy what I made, it would be easy. No trace I was ever there.”

Lena coos softly, “You tore it all up? How sad!”

“Or burned them. But sometimes I would keep one, for a little while.” Hanzo starts opening up the little flaps that will make the points of the snowflake. “I once had to wait nine days for a target to show his face at a designated point. It was in Nagoya, and I was not to be seen or heard. I stayed inside an abandoned room in a highrise across from the compound for the duration. And there is only so much meditation one can take. I made countless paper animals to fill the time. My own little zoo.”

Jesse looks up at Hanzo, trying to imagine the serious archer kneeling in the middle of a hotel room surrounded by all the little origami friends he made himself. He wonders if Hanzo gave them little names in his head. Hanzo finishes his snowflake and sets it carefully on top of the others in his little pile before starting another. Yeah, Jesse thinks. He totally named them.

“That is...adorable. And weird,” Hana states, making the rest of the table laugh. “I’m just saying, look at him, he’s Mister Mysterious Samurai Man over here! I was expecting something a little more badass than origami, like...like training constantly. Or sitting in his room and glaring at the wall. Or sitting for hours under a waterfall and contemplating the universe! Not that I don’t like this, of course, they’re very cute, but come on!” She holds up her half-made snowflake, which is somehow missing one of the points completely. “You sure you don’t have any hacks for this?”

They all laugh, and Hanzo lays another sheet of paper in front of her. “Start again, at the beginning.”

Hanzo does his best to help where he can, but he was not kidding when he said the snowflake design was not for beginners. None of them make too much progress. After setting up some music for them all to work to Lúcio manages to find a rhythm and turns out five good snowflakes out of about twenty, which is only one better than Jesse and a far better record than everyone else. Hana seems incapable of making a snowflake that has an even number of points, which should be impossible given the pattern and even when Hanzo is watching her he still cannot figure out how she is doing it. They all agree that they count, though, and Hanzo adds them to the pile. Every single one of Lena’s are crooked in one way or another, but she cranked out more than anyone else and most of them are decent enough to hang. Reinhardt’s snowflakes are surprisingly precise but he takes forever on each one so only end up making two. “Quality, not quantity,” he says proudly, holding up a gorgeous light blue snowflake.

The only one not in good spirits is Zarya, who has been growing increasingly frustrated as the little craft party has gone on. Conversation flows around her while she folds, then unfolds, refolds again, glares, crumples the paper into a ball and begins anew. A messy pile of failures begins to grow at her elbow, and Lena exchanges a worried look with the others as Zarya’s face gets more flushed with anger. “Zarya?” Lena tries. “Need any help, luv?”

“No.” Zarya punctuates this with a quick flip of the snowflake in question.

“Are you sure--?” Lena starts, but her mouth clacks shut when Zarya growls low. The snowflake is noticeably off-center, and ends up ground into her fist and discarded like the others.

“When was the party supposed to be?” Jesse asks under his breath.

Lúcio replies just as quietly, “Day after tomorrow.”

Sensing that their progress is slowing, Hanzo grunts in acknowledgement and stands to address them all. “We have time to finish the rest; let’s break for now. Mei will be back soon.”

Lena hops to her feet. “Right! We don’t want her catching wind of the surprise!” She looks down at the pile of finished snowflakes in the middle of the table and forces out a cheery, “I’m sure this will be plenty!”

“It’s something, at least,” Hana mumbles.

Jesse shoots her a warning look but keeps his voice cheerful. “They look plumb pretty, and she’ll love each and ever’ one of ‘em.” Another glance down at Zarya and he stands. “I’ll gather everythin’ up, y’all skidaddle.”

The others disperse, but Zarya stays staring resolutely at the new sheet of paper in front of her. It is obvious that she is embarrassed, having not completed a single one. Hanzo grips the back of his chair a moment and looks over at Jesse for help but he just gives him an encouraging look, jerking his head toward the strongwoman before making himself look busy gathering the snowflakes into a box.

Bracing himself, Hanzo approaches her. He almost speaks before realizing that this is a woman who would not appreciate being talked down to, literally or figuratively, so he pulls out the chair next to hers and sits down.

“It is no good,” Zarya says before Hanzo can say anything. Her hands flex on the table on either side of the sheet of paper before balling into fists.

“What part are you having a problem with?” Hanzo asks.

“Everything,” she says angrily, dismissively. “I cannot do it. It is a silly thing to learn.”

Hanzo scoffs. “You do not really think that.”

Zarya looks up at him with a hard glare. “What did you say?”

Most would wither under the intensity of that gaze but Hanzo does not flinch. “I have heard of your reputation. You work hard, harder than most, and sacrificed even more to achieve what you have. You are more dedicated than this. So I say you do not really think that. It is not in your nature.”

She shifts her weight back and forth in her chair, his appreciative words doing a decent job of spoiling the fight in her. Praise from the masses is one thing but Hanzo Shimada does not strike her as one to hand out compliments readily. The words feel like they have real meaning behind it. “Then what do I think?”

Hanzo surveys the discarded remains of her previous attempts and picks one up. The paper is thoroughly crushed and unusable. “I think you strive for perfection, but this is a task you cannot force. You have grown impatient.” He looks over at her as if daring her to argue, but instead she reluctantly nods. “Some things cannot be bent to your will by strength alone.”

“My hands cannot do what they need to,” she says, tightening those same hands before releasing the tension and laying her palms flat on the table. “It is too delicate. They are too soft and I am too rough. I am not good enough for...for this.”

Across the table Jesse is getting to the last of the snowflakes to put in the box but he slows his movements so he can eavesdrop. Not that he should need to; they are talking right in the middle of the common room. But this sounds more like something private. McCree feels somewhere along the way this conversation shifted topics and he missed the memo.

“Nonsense.” Hanzo taps the clean sheet of paper in front of her. “You are not sculpting the actual ice; it is just paper.”

“Ice would be easier,” she argues.

Hanzo has to remind himself that she is from Siberia. “It takes time,” he replies.

“I do not have time! Her party is the day after tomorrow!”

“And whatever you make for her will be good enough,” he insists. Hanzo gathers up some of the leftover sheets and places them in Zarya’s hands. “I am sure whatever you make for her, she will appreciate. Whether it be a snowflake or something else from the heart. If you put in the time and effort, it will be worth it.”

“And if nothing works?” Zarya asks.

“If nothing works?” Hanzo looks to the side as if thinking. “I believe flowers are always a welcome gift.”

Zarya gives him an exasperated look. “She is allergic.”

“The gift of not having a reaction is also a welcome gift.”

That gets a surprised laugh out of the Russian, who nods and gets to her feet. “Thank you. I...if I need assistance, can I…?”

“Of course.” Hanzo stands as well and gives a small bow, which Zarya awkwardly mimics before fleeing with the papers pressed against her chest protectively, her cheeks turning nearly as pink as her bright hair.

Jesse waits for her to get down the hall before turning on Hanzo. “Did I miss somethin’ there?”

“It would not surprise me,” Hanzo replies easily, stacking the rest of the unused papers together. He looks over to survey the box full of little origami snowflakes and sighs. He can just imagine his father’s unimpressed and disappointed glare.

“It ain’t all bad,” Jesse insists. “It’s the thought that counts, right? We’ll make do.”

“I will make more, later. When Mei has retired for the night.” Hanzo closes the box and stacks the papers on top, then hefts both to head out the door.

“Say, ah,” McCree blurts, taking an aborted step as if to follow. The archer looks back to give his attention. “I...I was thinkin’ about catching another movie tonight, after everyone turned in. You’re welcome to join me. Give you somethin’ to occupy your mind while you work on your origami?”

He knows it is unlikely; the past couple hours has been the most socialization Hanzo has participated in since he arrived at Watchpoint: Gibraltar. The man must have other things he would rather be doing than playing papercrafts with people he might tentatively call work associates. Hell, maybe he just wants to get a few hours peace and quiet before some mission pops up. Wasting even more time in the common room watching an old western surely is not high on Hanzo’s list of priorities. He should not have pushed his luck.

But wonder of wonders, Hanzo does not immediately shoot him down. If anything he looks surprised and maybe a little flattered to be asked. There is a considering pause, Hanzo shifting the box more firmly under one arm like he might be stalling for time. “I will think about it,” he finally replies. Then, barely a moment later, “What time?”

---

The bucket that McCree sets by Hanzo’s elbow is comically large featuring an equally ridiculous vintage red-and-white-striped logo on the side. ‘Popcorn!’ it advertises in a fat marquee font. And, true to its claim, the bucket is overflowing with fluffy white popcorn. “Where did you get that?” Hanzo asks, raising an eyebrow and leaning over to inhale the scent. It smells even better up close.

“Found it at a dollar store a few years ago. Like it? I’m a sucker for old-style stuff like that,” Jesse replies, a bottle of soda placed next to Hanzo’s tea. The archer is starting to think he should have picked a different beverage.

“You? I never would have guessed.” He smirks up at Jesse, who laughs and heads back toward the kitchen.

After a simple dinner eaten in the privacy of his own room, Hanzo had begun work on the remaining origami sheets for Mei’s party. It should not have been a problem; he could work much faster now that his movements were not being followed by six pairs of eyes, and he had always found the repetitive motions of origami to be a soothing experience.

But the normally relaxing activity was making him anything but relaxed. As the minutes ticked by he felt himself grow more and more tense in his shoulders. He made it less than half an hour before admitting defeat; the silence felt deafening after the afternoon spent in pleasant company. Like a tomb, his mind unhelpfully supplies. No, he could not sit surrounded in muffled nothingness tonight. He could go for a patrol around the perimeter, or head for the firing range again. Or...well, there was a third option.

And McCree had extended an open invitation.

Gathering up his supplies before he could talk himself out of it, he made his way back to the common rooms just as McCree was starting in on popcorn. He had been greeted with McCree giving him a pleasantly surprised grin and motioning for him to make himself comfortable while he went about making them a snack.

Hanzo was not sure what process McCree used to make his popcorn, but it was far more complicated than inserting a bag into the microwave and hitting the popcorn button. There was some sort of metal container on the stove involved, and precise measurements, and the most amazing scents drifting stronger and stronger from the kitchen over to his seat in front of the television. He could not really tell from his place on the couch, and McCree was busy humming a little foreign tune to himself as he worked that Hanzo was reluctant to interrupt. Maybe he would ask later.

Now, the treat that had been making his stomach twist in renewed hunger is within easy reach. Succumbing to temptation far quicker than he would like, Hanzo plucks one of the tantalizing snacks from the bucket and takes an experimental bite.

Hanzo blinks, then blinks again before his eyes go wide. “Nani?”

It is unlike any popcorn he has ever tasted. Yes, it is popcorn, and yes, there is some sort of combination of butter and salt on it. But it is light and fluffy and crunchy and salty-sweet-delicious in a subtle way that is completely different than anything he has usually eaten. Better than movie theater popcorn and far superior to what comes out of a microwave bag.

He has to have more.

When McCree comes back carrying a roll of paper towels he has to tamp down on his pleasure when he finds Hanzo shoveling a handful into his mouth. “Thought you might need these so you don’t mess up your origami. I take it you like it?”

Hanzo might be enamored with the big bucket of goodness, but he is not so far gone that he would talk with his mouth full. After swallowing he asks, “What is this?”

“You do like it!” And the prideful grin bursts out. He sits down on the couch next to Hanzo and gets his own handful, popping a few in his mouth. “It might take a little more time but they say the best things in life are worth the wait, or somethin’ like that, right?”

“Yes, but what is this? What did you do to it?”

“My own little recipe,” Jesse replies with an exaggerated wink. “I’ll show it to you one day. For now, just enjoy it. You got enough room, though?”

On the table in front of them Hanzo has set up a little assembly line of sorts, with clean origami sheets to the left and a box for finished snowflakes on the right, workspace in the middle. Hana’s spare headphones, some of Lúcio’s audio wiring, and Torbjörn’s...questionable reading materials all found a new home shoved in one of the shelving compartments along the wall to make room. Hanzo feels a little guilty that he is taking up the majority of the room on the couch so he can sit centered to the table, but Jesse is not moving to one of the other chairs and seems content to share it as well as the popcorn bucket.

“I am fine,” Hanzo assures him. He is helpless not to eat a few more, or a dozen more pieces before ripping a towel from the roll to clean his fingers. “What are we watching?”

Jesse is already manning the tablet and scrolling through what Hanzo can see is an impressive listing of movies. Did Jesse find all these himself? The ones he recognizes are all older films; some of them at least a century old. “An old classic. The Magnificent Seven. Ever heard of it?”

“No. Is it like the other one we watched?”

“It’s a little more…upbeat, I guess you could say? It was made ‘bout fifteen years earlier, you know, so there was a different tone. You really just have to ignore the goofy music. I know, I know, it seems out of place. Good story, though.”

Hanzo hums as the opening credits roll. Jesse’s right about the music; it’s certainly upbeat. It sounds more like the score for a fun carefree adventure. He half-listens to the opening scene, trying not to cringe at the acting of the ‘Mexican’ farmers. It was a different time, he reminds himself, and diversity in cinema was limited to white people and slightly darker white people, with small parts played by less-than-ideal actors. Luckily he needs to keep an eye on the folds under his fingertips so he does not have to see the worst of it.

It is about twenty minutes in when Hanzo’s hands slow, realization dawning on him. He looks up at the screen and listens more intently to the farmer’s plea to the gunslinger Chris, and it hits him. “I have seen this story.”

“Aww,” Jesse complains, a little disappointed. “You’ve seen it?”

“No, not the movie. But I have seen this story before.”

Jesse frowns. “What does that mean?”

“This is a different movie. Seven Samurai. It is the same story.”

“No way! This is a western classic.”

“Seven Samurai is an eastern classic. And the same story!”

Jesse pauses the movie and sits up, grabbing the tablet to look it up, but Athena offers assistance readily from the overhead speaker. “Agents McCree and Shimada, the 1960 film The Magnificent Seven is a remake of the 1954 film Shichinin no Samurai, or Seven Samurai.”

“You don’t say?” Jesse drawls, tipping his hat back in surprise. Beside him Hanzo gives a confused look, because the A.I. did just say it, before he realizes it is meant to be a rhetorical question. Jesse turns to look at him. “Huh. I never knew that. It any good?”

Hanzo nearly chokes on the popcorn kernel he had been sneaking and looks at Jesse incredulously. “Is it any good? It is better than this!”

That gets him an outright scoff. “Excuse you, that there’s a hefty claim! You diggin’ for gold?”

“What?”

“There ain’t no way it’s better than this here movie,” Jesse states, pointing at the paused image of Chris agreeing to help the farmers hire gunfighters to protect their village.

“You are a fool to think otherwise,” Hanzo counters, chin held high in defiance.

“A’ight, then!” Jesse palms the tablet and starts jabbing his finger through the folders. “Athena, we got this Seven Samurai movie in our database?”

“No, Agent McCree. It is not currently in my archives.”

Jesse grunts. “Can you get us a copy before we finish the first one?”

“What?” Hanzo asks again, losing track of where this is going.

Overhead, Athena replies, “The file should be downloaded within the next two minutes, Agent McCree.”

“Thank ya kindly, ma'am, you’re just as sweet as the mornin’ rain,” Jesse grins, leaning back and looking to Hanzo again. “Now we’ll see just who’s right.”

Hanzo stares at him a moment. “You want to...watch them both now?”

Jesse shrugs easily. “Sure, why not? Ain’t got anythin’ better to do, and I’m always up for a good movie. Even if it ain’t better than Magnificent Seven.”

“It is better,” Hanzo argues automatically. “How long is this movie?”

A quick check and Jesse answers, “Little over two hours.”

Hanzo rotates the barely-formed origami in his hands. He could bow out now. There is no reason to spend all night here with McCree. But the memory of the oppressive silence of his rooms keeps him seated. Still, he should probably warn the man. “It has been a while, but if I remember correctly Seven Samurai is roughly three hours. Or more.”

Jesse lets out a low whistle and checks the time on the tablet. A few seconds is all he needs before he nods, decision made. “We’re gonna need more popcorn.”

---

Five hours and thirty-six minutes later, the end credits roll on Seven Samurai.

Jesse abandoned his hat and his boots about the time Calvera was forcing the seven gunfighters to abandon their weapons and leave the village. Hanzo stopped folding his origami around the time Bernardo took a bullet to the chest. The break between movies was just long enough to refresh their drinks and, at Hanzo’s insistence, refill the bucket of popcorn. It is a horrible mistake as far as the state of their stomachs is concerned, but McCree’s popcorn is just too good to resist. By the time Kambei Shimada (and they had to actually rewind the film so that McCree could confirm that really was the old samurai’s surname, McCree practically crowing that he would be teasing Hanzo about that for years to come) began recruiting Gorobei, Heihachi, and Kyūzō, Hanzo’s posture mirrored McCree’s own slumped form. His prosthetics were propped up on the table next to McCree’s socked feet and a near empty soda bottle hung limply from one hand. Hanzo cannot even remember the last time he had a proper soda. By the end of the movie the popcorn bucket lodged between them on the couch is filled with nothing more than crumbs.

They are both bleary, bloated, and glassy-eyed from staring at the screen for so long. Hanzo is aware of small twitching pains in his muscles, the results of being awake far too long for something completely unnecessary, hyper aware of his fingers and his knees. It is a feeling Hanzo usually associates with being hunted by assassins and the need to stay awake until he is sure no one is following him. Experiencing it now in a safe setting makes him feel nauseous. Or maybe that is just all that popcorn digesting.

Hanzo rotates his head from his position against the couch cushions to look over at McCree. The darkness of the room after looking away from the screen feels weird on his eyes. “Well?”

“Well.” Jesse’s voice sounds rougher than usual from not talking for a while. Certainly not from any emotion over the ending, of course. Either way it is thick with a mixture of exhaustion and realization and Hanzo has to ignore the way it rolls over him like a smoky fog. “Well, shit.”

“I told you.”

“They left so much out from the original,” Jesse says. His arms feel too heavy to move right now, his serape feeling much heavier in his mind that it actually is, so he gestures with his toes with his heels planted on the table as his feet move from side to side. “Like, it’s the same story but the tone is completely different.”

Hanzo hums in agreement, eyes finally adjusting on Jesse’s face. His eyelids are heavy despite how alert he seems mentally. “A lot gets lost in the translation.”

“Yeah. All of the...the nuances of...I guess the Japanese class system?” Jesse struggles to find the words he is looking for. “It’s not like gunslingers get bowed to with respect just for being what they are. They just happen to be good with a gun, and yeah, if you’re hired by someone halfway influential I guess that carries some clout but it isn’t the same as the respect you got as a retainer.” He picks at the fabric of his jeans, thinking. “Most all these westerns, they either pick up a gun for money or for revenge. And I guess there’s some truth to that. But it’s like what Chris said, the contracts no court would enforce, those are the ones you gotta keep.” He gives a small smile. “At least that translates in any language.”

“The strong defending the weak? Yes, that is something we can all follow.”

“Sounds a little like some of the jobs I took over the years,” Jesse admits, smile turning rueful. “But that’s why you look to hire those that will work for rice and beans, huh?”

“Find hungry samurai. Even bears come down from the mountains when they are hungry,” Hanzo quotes, a small smile tilting his lips. It is a quote he can relate to. “I was surprised they changed the characters of Kikuchiyo and Katsushirō so much.”

“They had to! Samurai took on apprentices or attendants, that sort of thing. They don’t really have the same sort of equivalent here. Just young idiots out to make a name for themselves and a little money. It’s kind of a shame; it’s like they combined Kikuchiyo and Katsushirō into Chico and crammed both storylines together. And then the others, they hardly did any justice!”

“I thought Shichirōji’s character was much more interesting in Magnificent Seven. What was his name?” Hanzo asks.

“Vin. And that’s ‘cause you like a smart-ass,” Jesse says, smirking. “Must remind you of someone.”

Hanzo smirks right back, rising to the bait. “You take after Kikuchiyo. Loud and dressed ridiculously.”

“Not sure I could pull off that look he was sportin’ in the river,” Jesse replies, running fingers through his beard thoughtfully. “But I bet I have the legs for the one he was wearing near the end.”

The mental image of McCree wearing nothing more than leather chest armor, a helmet and a fundoshi knocks a burst of genuine laughter out of Hanzo. Jesse’s smile grows and he joins in as he watches Hanzo’s face transform with it, the corners of his eyes creasing with mirth. The archer has a lovely laugh, deep and loud when he is not concerned with how others are perceiving him. “I think,” Hanzo finally breathes, “that would put an interesting image on Overwatch for the rest of the world.”

“Seems like it’d be cold, too,” he muses. “I don’t understand how you go out fightin’ in that get-up you wear all the time.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you got half your chest out all the time! Don’t you get a…” Jesse has to stop to giggle at his own joke. “Don’t you get a bit nipply?”

Hanzo flushes red and he smacks McCree’s arm, but there’s no coordination or heat to it. Why is such a stupid statement making him laugh? “It is so my movements are fluid and unrestricted.”

“It’s givin’ unrestricted access for the wind and people to stare, is what it’s doin’. Not that there’s anythin’ wrong with that, of course, to each their own…”

“Shut up, McCree,” Hanzo chuckles. “You sound more and more like Kikuchiyo by the minute.”

“And you,” Jesse decrees, “are like Kyūzō.” His face goes extremely stoic and he tries his best to imitate Hanzo’s carefully selected words. “Super serious and perfect in every situation, no matter how dire.” It is ruined by the way his demeanor cracks with a wide amused smile.

“I do not sound like that!” Hanzo exclaims. “And I’m not always serious!”

“Not now, but usually. You’re thawin’ a little, Mister Shimada.”

Hanzo shakes his head and laughs again, at McCree’s antics and at himself for going along with it and just the two of them in general. Maybe he is right. “It is the sleep deprivation, then.”

“Uh huh. Sure it is.” Jesse lets out a huge yawn that looks like it could break his jaw at any moment.

It seems like their cue to leverage themselves off the couch and clean up. Hanzo feels a little light-headed as he sits up and gathers the supplies he had been using. The box of origami snowflakes is nearly as overflowing as the popcorn bucket had been. Next to him Jesse adjusts his serape around his neck that he had burrowed down into like a blanket, then collects their trash for the recycler.

As tired as he is, Hanzo wishes there was another movie in the queue. “I did like Calvera,” he throws out, reluctant for the evening--morning--to end.

“Yes!” Jesse exclaims, walking back toward the kitchen to throw things away. “Eli Wallach, an amazing actor. He steals every scene he’s in. Just you wait until we get to The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. Fantastic.”

“That is one aspect I wish they had in Seven Samurai,” Hanzo says. Now that he’s standing the tiredness is hitting him full-on. Checking the tablet to turn off the screen he finds that it is after four in the morning. Did he have anything important to do today? “They did not have an equivalent. The bandit leader was just dressed more theatrically.”

“Here, let me help you with that.” Jesse is suddenly by his side, lifting the box from Hanzo’s arms so all he needs to carry is the leftover origami sheets. He starts to lead Hanzo from the room, dimming the lights as he goes. “I get that both bandit groups were raiding the village because they were hungry, but they didn’t really get it across as well in Seven Samurai. And Calvera, even though he was a bastard, really did want to take care of his men.”

“He could have got a decent job,” Hanzo points out. “Not pillaging poor farmers.”

“Hey, I didn’t say he was a good guy,” Jesse laughs, holding up a hand in defence. “Just that he was more relatable than some no-named armored guy on a horse.”

The halls between the common rooms and the barracks are empty and quiet, and they lower their voices so they will not echo like their steps on the metal floors. Hanzo’s prosthetics click with each footfall. “He is in another movie we are going to watch, you said?”

“Yeah, but it’s the third in a trilogy, so we’d have to catch the first two.”

Hanzo side-eyes Jesse, ducking his head slightly. “So you’re saying we’re making this a habit?”

“Someone has to educate you about the wonders of the spaghetti western,” Jesse grins, elbowing him gently in the arm with the metallic protrusion sticking off his mechanical arm. Hanzo keeps forgetting to ask what its purpose is. It does not seem to be intended to help with bending his elbow, and the rim of it is scratched and uneven. “Besides, I’ve set the bait now.”

“The bait?” Hanzo questions.

“Yeah, my popcorn. No one can resist,” he replies with a wink.

Hanzo is glad the halls are dark so McCree cannot see his blush. A completely unnecessary blush, and Hanzo really should get some sleep. “It is passable,” he says.

“Aww, that ain’t what you were sayin’ earlier, sug,” Jesse laughs. They arrive at Hanzo’s room and Jesse passes the box over to the archer, knowing that Hanzo is particular about who goes in and out of his private quarters.

After Hanzo keys in the access code he lingers by the door, considering Jesse with a soft sigh. “If we are going to keep watching movies together, you do not get to pick them all.”

“Fair’s fair,” Jesse agrees. “You pick the next one?”

“Agreed,” Hanzo replies, fighting down his own yawn.

Jesse tips his hat to Hanzo and turns, headed down the hall toward his own room. Over his shoulder he calls, “We really got to plan out these marathons better, though. If we have a mission tomorrow I’m gonna be as slow as a drowsy haint.”

It takes Hanzo a good five seconds before he sticks his head back out the door, bewildered voice calling out, “What does that even mean?!” Jesse’s disembodied laughter is the only thing he hears in return.

---

Six hours and three cups of black coffee later, McCree still has not explained the weird colloquialism from the night before. To be fair, Hanzo had not asked, not through the abrupt mission briefing and not through the ride on the carrier where he sat tucked into a seat staring blankly at the opposite wall in a sleepy haze. Much like McCree himself.

The call had come in a little over four hours ago; a tip-off about a possible attack on an omnic settlement off the coast of Sicily. The intel was unclear about just what group might be involved or how many operatives there could be, but there are no shortage of terrorists organizations interested in wiping a peaceful omnic community off the map. Jesse could think of three off the top of his head operating out of the Ionian Sea alone, much less the rest of Europe.The only thing that had been clear was that an attack was imminent, within the next twelve hours.

Winston had given Jesse and Hanzo an unimpressed look when they arrived for the debrief with impressive bags under their eyes, but time was of the essence and he spared them any sarcasm. A good thing since Jesse tended to be snippy in the mornings without at least eight ounces of dark brew running through his veins, and that is on a good day. The others available for the mission also happen to be the ones from the gathering the day before, which makes for a decent enough protection force for such a small settlement. Zarya actually argued that it seemed excessive, but Winston insisted that they board the carrier and head out immediately.

Her arguing about it did not stop the whole ride across the Mediterranean. Jesse had been too out of it to pay it much heed, the gentle steady hum of the carrier lulling him in and out of a doze. He left the disagreement to Lena who regularly gets a decent amount of sleep and has energy reserves previously unheard of. It did not really get his attention until they were coming in for a landing and Zarya became increasingly more frustrated with the whole endeavor, even going as far as to say their presence is not even needed at all.

“I’ll make you a deal, then,” Lena had huffed, the edges of her patience finally fraying. “You stay here in the carrier and keep watch with the equipment. You can let us know of any approaching vehicles or fighter jets, alright?”

Everyone else had gathered by the bay doors and ran over the plan again: D.Va and Reinhardt were to take position to the east and west ends of the neighborhood, Hanzo would act as their eyes on the ground and fall back to a defensive position if necessary, and Tracer and McCree would be the main offense if the others met with any issues. Lúcio was in a centralized location and ready to easily dispatch to any point in the area if he is needed.

Now, McCree finds himself walking a slow inconsistent circuit around the back alleys of the small omnic village, familiarizing himself with the layout. There was a swell in activity from the residents about an hour ago but most of them have retreated to their homes, a few reluctantly opening their businesses. They all seem to know something dangerous is just over the horizon even though the Overwatch agents tried their best not to raise an alarm. A panicked populace would be even harder to defend.

McCree brings a hand up to the communicator in his ear. “McCree. I think I’ve got the town covered, but I’m gonna continue patrolling for now.”

“I’ll do the same,” Tracer replies. “How’s everyone doing?”

“Bored,” comes D.Va’s immediate reply.

Lúcio chuckles. “Don’t be that way! It could be worse. I heard Angela was going to be making breakfast this morning.”

That statement is followed up by Hana’s theatrical gagging over the line and a ripple of laughter. Reinhardt chimes in, “Her heart is in the right place. I would gladly eat any of her cooking attempts if it makes her happy.”

“Way to take one for the team,” McCree replies, smirking.

“There is a group of children playing in the field just east of the village,” the German continues. “I am keeping an eye on them.”

“Don’t get distracted.”

“Me?”

“Yeah, you. You like to show off.”

“It makes them laugh!”

McCree shakes his head, taking a turn and walking along the storefronts of the next street at a leisurely pace. His eyes are scanning the few people still moving about, looking for anyone out of place. “Hanzo? Status?”

“Nothing yet,” Hanzo replies. No details accompany the short reply.

Two hours later, McCree thoroughly agrees with Hana’s assessment. He is bored. Not only is he bored, but he really, really needs a nap. The weather has turned just warm enough to make everything pleasantly cozy and he has to splash a little water from his canteen on his face to wake himself up. And still, he is so very, very bored.

He cannot be the only one. Changing the settings on his communicator, he says, “Hanzo, come in?”

“Hanzo here.”

Jesse pauses in a shady spot under the awning of Beito’s Bonds and Pawn Shop. The neon sign in the window is glowing bright despite it being early afternoon. “I don’t know about you, but I am dog tired. How you holdin’ up?”

“I am able to continue the mission.”

“Never doubted that for a second, sug,” Jesse chuckles. “We’re on a private channel.”

There’s a few moments of silence, then Hanzo’s tired sigh. “We should not have watched them both in one night.”

“Nah, we just shoulda planned it better. Next time we’ll start earlier.” He lets himself yawn open and deep, not bothering to cover his mouth. “Bet you wish you had some paper right about now.”

“I think I could take a break from origami for a while. After yesterday I am certain I could fold a snowflake in my sleep.”

“Always bragging,” Jesse teases, making Hanzo laugh. With the communicator he sounds close, like Hanzo is strolling along next to him, laughing right in Jesse’s ear. It is very distracting. “You think they’ll show?”

“Danger always strikes when everything seems fine.”

“Oh, don’t you go quotin’ your movies at me,” Jesse says with a laugh. “All the same, I’d be right pleased if whoever’s plannin’ this didn’t go disturbing such a nice day.”

“Better this than having to deal with the rain,” Hanzo replies, recalling the torrent of rain that the samurai had to contend with during their final battle. “It always interferes with my Sonic arrows.”

“Is that right? Anything Winston can take a look at?”

“I haven’t asked.”

“You should.”

Hanzo grunts. “And end up with arrows that explode on me like your bullets?”

“Fair enough.”

There is a lull in the conversation, and Jesse thinks that Hanzo might have disconnected or changed back to the team channel. Then his voice comes back to him. “McCree...those bullets you refused to test. What were they?”

Oh. Well. “BF-188. They’re a localized EMP shot. Causes an electromagnetic pulse inside the target, supposed to radiate outward about five feet.”

“Seems awfully specific.”

“Hmm.”

“What would he want you to use it for?”

“It’s omnic-specific ammunition,” Jesse says flatly. “He started developing them to use against omnics infected with the God Program.”

“I can see how that would be useful.” When he gets no reply, Hanzo continues, “I do not understand. Would it not be easier to take out enemy omnics with such bullets?”

Jesse notices an omnic villager exit from the doors of one of the shops and hurry down the street toward the residential areas. He watches their progress under the awnings of the shops until they pass out of sight. “There’s no wounding with them. One-shot-kill. No mistakes.” His metallic fingers flex at his side. “No second chances. No...they can’t surrender, and you have to assume they’re opperatin’ under the God Program. I don’t...there’s somethin’ wrong with that.”

“Bullets are just as deadly.”

“Bullets can take down anyone equally. But you ain’t gonna die from a bullet to the arm. BF-188, an omnic is gonna die even if you hit the wall behind them. Even if you misfire.” He knows his logic has some flaws. What he has done, what he does now, killing is part of the job. Why this in particular is too far, he does not know how to explain. “I guess...I guess if I hadn’t worked with Genji I wouldn’t think like that.”

“They would kill him,” Hanzo states. Jesse wishes he could see his face. It is too hard to read the tone of his voice.

“Yeah. Even if I wasn’t aiming at him, if he was near…”

“...Thank you.”

“No problem.”

---

“You have been with Overwatch a long time, yes?”

Jesse nods even though Hanzo cannot see it. He has taken up position on a crate in an alley off the main thoroughfare. From the shadows he has a clear shot of the government building where the town’s leaders are located; he can take a break and rest his legs while still keeping an eye on things. Though the brick alley wall behind his back absorbed some of the heat from the sun earlier, and if he was a lesser man he would surely be snoring away right about now. Luckily he has some company on the comms. “More or less. Not out in the open as much as the others, bein’ with Blackwatch, but yeah.”

“Is it normal for agents to refuse to go into battle like Agent Zarya?”

McCree draws one leg up to prop his heel against the edge of the crate and his elbow on his knee. He can hear the disdain leaking into Hanzo’s voice, and he really cannot blame the archer for the tone. Jesse is feeling less than charitable about it, himself. “No,” he replies. “She is very young, and very proud.”

“The graveyards are full of people who were very young, and very proud,” Hanzo grunts. “I would think someone with her military background would be less...insubordinate.”

“Based on the information in her files, I’d say she’s just less inclined to help an omnic settlement than a human one. Got a bit of an axe to grind.”

“There is no room for that in battle.” Jesse can hear some distortion on the line as Hanzo changes locations. “We have to leave our personal grievances out of a mission. And yes, McCree, I am aware of how hypocritical that is coming from me.”

Jesse grins and hopes Hanzo can hear it color his voice. “You said it, sug, not me.” Man, he wishes he had another cup of coffee. “And I’m in the same boat, so don’t worry your pretty little head about it.”

He expects Hanzo to question that, but instead he gets, “I will need someone to help hang all the snowflakes tomorrow before the party.”

“You need someone to reach all those high places you can’t?”

“I should shoot you where you sit.”

Jesse sits up and swivels his head around to try and spot Hanzo, hand instinctively going for his holster with no intention of drawing. Where is the little--

The throat clearing in his ear is an echo of the one above him. He looks up to find Hanzo on the building directly opposite of him, one prosthetic propped on the lip of the roof and leaning over to smirk at the cowboy. “I have no problems finding the higher ground. You should be more observant.”

“And you should wear a bell,” Jesse laughs, tipping his hat back so he can see the archer easier. “How long you been there?”

“Not long. Your skills are not completely dull.”

Jesse puts his hand to his chest, over his heart. “Dear diary: Shimada paid me the highest of compliments. He was singing my praises. I wasn’t expecting all these flowers and speeches--”

“Shut up, McCree,” Hanzo laughs, shaking his head. The way he is backlit by the bright blue sky overhead, not a cloud in sight, it makes Hanzo hard to look at. Jesse has to squint to see him. But he can make out that smile. He should smile more often.

Hanzo’s gaze flits from McCree upward over the building Jesse is leaning against and his eyes catch on something. Whatever it is makes the archer’s whole stance morph from relaxed to alert and Jesse follows suit without even knowing the threat. “What is it?”

The archer shakes out his arm once, still assessing the danger, then looks down at McCree and says, “How’d you like to kill thirty bandits?” before taking a leap over Jesse’s head and across the narrow alley to the other building, disappearing out of sight.

“Shit, I hope you’re exaggerating,” Jesse replies, leaping up and running down the side of the building to loop around behind, following.

They both switch back so the main channel can hear their chatter, Hanzo quietly tracking and reporting the movements of several squads moving into the area. Neither Reinhardt or D.Va noticed any unusual vehicles moving into the area, and Jesse wonders if they came from one of their undefended sides or if they had already been laying in wait within city limits. Sounds like they are trying to surround and squeeze the village. “So how many are we dealing with, Hanzo?” he asks, ducking into a doorway.

“Three squads, seven men each, at least. Hold.” There is a strained silence on the line, then Hanzo reports in a hushed tone, “One is radioing in to prepare a second wave. We must assume we’ll be against that many or more.”

“Or more?” D.Va exclaims. “It’s a zerg rush!”

“A second wave? We aren’t prepared for this,” Lúcio says. “I won’t be able to keep track of all of you.”

McCree tries to imagine the layout of the town in his head based on his patrol and the maps from the briefing. The placement of the buildings, the tactical options available. “The odds are too high,” he says, drawing Peacemaker and checking her ammo.

“Then we go?” Tracer asks. “Should we retreat?”

“No.” He presses himself against the brick and slows his breathing. There are heavy footsteps coming his way. He can see them in his mind’s eye as if they were right in front of him. “We lower the odds.”

Whirling around the corner Jesse squares off against the seven soldiers abruptly stopped in the alley in front of him. They are dressed in all black, full body armor and facial masks obscuring their identities, identical down to the rifles in their hands. Details that Jesse will recall later. In the split second of his Deadeye, such matters are trivial. They are nothing but targets.

“It’s High Noon,” he says, focus narrowing before he fires six shots. Six bodies drop to the ground. Six lives snuffed out in an instant.

The seventh soldier, the one Jesse does not target, is closest to him. The soldier on point. So shocked is he by Jesse’s sudden arrival that he barely has the presence of mind to raise his rifle. But Jesse combat rolls forward under the bullet and strikes the man in the side of the head as he comes out of it, knocking him out without even reloading. In the distance he can hear gunfire ring out and screams, his own shots seeming signal the others to attack. “Seven down,” he says into his communicator, running off for the fight

Jesse tries to keep up with what is happening on the line and where his teammates are, but mostly all he hears is gunfire and shouting. The ground behind him gets sprayed with bullets and he ducks down behind a parked car. “It’s Talon. Shit. Hanzo, where are they comin’ from?”

“There are squads keeping D.Va and Reinhardt busy so they’re getting in from the north and the south. I’m--” He cuts himself off with some colorful cursing in his native tongue; Jesse is fairly sure it is directed at whoever is on the other end of Hanzo’s arrows. “I’m...up on the government center,” he huffs. “I believe they are trying to infiltrate, if they can get close enough. They will not get close enough.”

“That’s what I like to hear,” Jesse grins, then ducks as the passenger side window blasts out over his head. “Zarya, we’re gonna need you out here A.S.A.P.”

“Winston wants me to relay what is happening,” she says.

“Winston ain’t here, get out here and guard the south.”

“We are outnumbered! I can give Reinhardt back-up from my position without leaving the--”

“I can hold this position without assistance!” Reinhardt shouts, nearly deafening them all. He forgot to normalize the volume on his communicator again.

Jesse blind-fires over his shoulder, hoping he does not strike any civilians, and makes a break for the main street gritting out, “Don’t make me tell you again, get to the south and take position--”

“What good would that do?!”

“Guys, come on, now isn’t the time for this!” He can hear Tracer’s pulse bomb explode a few blocks over. “Could use a little help here!”

“There is no reason to risk good soldiers on--”

“Enough!” Hanzo snaps over the comm, silencing everyone. “It does not matter who these villagers are. They need your help. This is the nature of war: By protecting others, you save yourselves. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. Tracer, get down!”

Jesse is close enough to Hanzo’s location that he does not need his communicator to hear Hanzo’s shout, “Ryū ga waga teki wo kurau!” Three soldiers come running from from under an awning but the twin blue dragons engulf them before they get far, their rifles flung across the street in the direction they were headed and skittering to a stop against the far gutter. A moment later Tracer’s head and shoulders pop up from behind an overturned table, eyes wide behind her goggles. “Wicked! Cheers, luv!” she shouts, leaping to her feet. “And she’s back in the game!”

The relief is short-lived as another two soldiers come running in from the south. McCree takes out one while Tracer disposes of the other. In the distance they can hear the steady base of Lúcio’s sonic amplifier. But it is all mixed in with the shouts of scared and fleeing omnics. “Zarya, where the hell--?!”

From over the comms they can all hear the sound of heavy weaponry powering up. “Ready for battle,” she replies, all business. “Barrier up. You’re covered.”

“And now we’re seven,” McCree replies, sending up a silent thanks to the heavens, or at least to Hanzo for his sharp tongue. “Clear out the operatives already in town; we’re gonna force a bottleneck to the north. One way in, no way out. And get a move on; justice ain’t gonna dispense itself!”

---

The protection mission is a success. No injuries to the team, and no casualties to the populace. It is suspected that it was just a hit-or-miss attempt to stir up trouble in the area; whether Overwatch protected the citizens or not, local politicians will use the incident as a tool in one way or another for their own personal gains, the media will pick up on it, and the terrorist organization will get more notoriety. Which is probably what Talon wanted. It is a bitter pill to swallow but McCree has long abandoned the idea that the governments of the world can see two feet in front of their nose. Besides, they did what they set out to do, and those omnics will keep chugging along with their day-to-day lives.

No one mentions the mid-battle fight or Zarya’s reluctance to participate. If McCree was not bone tired after it was all said and done, he probably would have kicked up quite the fuss. But after a truncated debrief all he does is go back to his room, flop onto his bed, and sleep a good ten hours straight.

Mei’s birthday party is also a huge success. She does not suspect a thing and lets out an embarrassed little squeak when Fareeha leads her through the doorway to the common room and they all shout surprise. Music from Mei’s favorite playlists are thumping out of Lúcio’s speakers, there is a modest pile of presents stacked to one side, and dinner is already waiting: Jesse’s Overwatch-Famous-So-It-May-As-Well-Be-World-Famous Chili. (“Get it? Chili? Like chilly, since she uses ice!”) They can groan all they want. Puns aside, the food is really good. Reinhardt even managed to find time to bake a cake, being one of the only Overwatch agents inclined toward baking. It’s way too much for the number of people and the writing on it is lopsided, but it will taste delicious.

And over their heads strung on a web of clear nylon wire are about a hundred origami snowflakes. It makes for a stunning effect, and the awkward shaped ones are hardly noticeable. She thanks everyone for the effort, but the hug she bestows upon Hanzo is extra tight. Which is good, because Hanzo had been starting to withdraw again, Genji’s very presence making his brother fade back behind the others. It is hard to hide when the birthday girl starts dragging you around to look at all the little snowflakes together.

It is a little overwhelming with so many people giving her birthday wishes and handing out food and socializing that Mei almost does not notice the absence of one of the agents. When she does, she looks around but does not spot her.

“Where is she?” Angela whispers to McCree.

“You got me,” he replies, worried at the disappointment Mei is barely masking.

Luckily they get their answer soon enough. Zarya clears her throat when she comes in, getting Mei’s attention. The strongwoman looks like she got in a fight with a bottle of glitter. There is a smear of it on her cheek and her fingers are equally coated with the glitter and bandages. But in her hands is an exquisitely carved paper snowflake, curved and crafted with a knife and glue, decorated with a healthy dose of pink and blue glitter. It is huge, as big as her head.

Mei gasps and rushes over, eyes glowing with delight. “Is this for me?” she asks, reaching out as if to take it.

“Yes. Ah, I would...I would wait,” Zarya says sheepishly. “It needs to dry.”

“I love it!” Mei coos, dancing back and forth from one foot to the other.

Zarya smiles tentatively. “Really?”

“Of course! It’s beautiful!” Then she hops on her tiptoes and throws her arms around Zarya’s neck, hugging her tight and dragging the taller woman down to her level.

Zarya turns an alarming shade of pink that nearly matches the color of her hair. “Er, um. Happy birthday, Mei,” she stutters, giving her a one-armed hug in response, her other hand still trying to balance the sticky gift.

McCree suddenly recalls asking Hanzo if he had missed something at the craft party. He finds Hanzo’s eyes in the crowd and raises an eyebrow, questioning. Hanzo just responds with a knowing smirk. Well, how do you like that?

Later, after Zarya monopolizes Mei’s time with the smaller girl asking all sorts of questions about Zarya’s present, including why she has so many bandages on her fingers (“No pain, no gain,” she replied, wincing a little at the memory of all those paper cuts), they get through the food and bring out the cake. Everyone gathers to sing Happy Birthday while Angela lights the candles.

Across the table Hanzo sings along with everyone else, but he keeps sharing amused looks with Jesse when it becomes clear that none of them could carry a tune if it was a bucket with a lid on it. Hanzo’s singing is off-key, and he keeps messing up the words from laughing. But his voice is nice. Deep. Attractive. Just like the rest of him.

Hanzo is attractive.

Jesse feels a warmth bloom in his chest that has nothing to do with all that chili powder he added to his supper.

Shit.

Chapter Text

The door slides shut with a soft hiss, and only when his back is pressed fully against its solid strength does Hanzo let out a pained groan. His bare hand comes up to squeeze the aching muscle of his right arm through the fabric, trying to soothe the sharp nerve pain away from the area. Genji always did know exactly where to strike for maximum lingering damage. And he knows how to hit that exact same spot with unerring accuracy, even all these years later. Seems times have not changed in that regard.

 

And others as well. He closes his eyes and thumps the back of his head against the door a few times for good measure. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

 

It always starts out so cautiously hopeful. A rare moment where they are both in a common area alone, or they meet in the hall headed in the same direction. Another opportunity to try and bridge the gap between them. Every word spoken between them deliberate and safe, weighed and measured before let loose. And yet every time one of them turns careless and in moments the bridge is shattered again.

 

Today it had been the hair thing. Hanzo had honestly thought that would be a safe topic; Genji had always done wild things with his looks. He should have known better.

 

First it had been the clothes. The clothing choices became more and more outlandish the older Genji got. No color and pattern combination had been too bright for Genji to try. The more attention it garnered the better. Frankly, some of it had been hideous, and he thinks that if he and Genji could get through a conversation without turning on each other he would readily agree. That yellow sleeveless jacket had been a particular eyesore. But the clothes were temporary, transient things that had disappeared easily. One word from their father and they vanished with the next wash. No way were their maids risking their jobs or possibly more for some kid with a rebellious streak.

 

Next came the piercings, two loops along the top of each ear that would be hardly worth noticing nowadays. Hardly worth noticing back then either, when Genji was fourteen and fully embracing his teenage spirit. Hanzo had noticed only because Genji had come trouncing in, ears inflamed a violent red with a grin that said he knew exactly what havoc he was going to cause. Their father had made them both sit for over an hour while he lectured them both on how foolish it was as an assassin to have such an easily visible and exploitable weakness, then began nit-picking every other fault between the two. After the hour during which Genji had shout himself hoarse, he had been forced to remove the earrings or his father was going to remove them himself. The four little loops of silver clinked across the wooden floor when Genji threw them down. The glare he saved for Hanzo once his father strode from the room; throughout the tirade his brother had not said a single word.

 

The tattoo appeared at sixteen. Not the green dragon; that came earlier along with Hanzo’s blue, and was not a choice either of them made. No, it was a small sparrow on his opposite calf, just a few hints of color here and there. If Hanzo had been given the opportunity, he would have told Genji it was nice. Tasteful, compared to most of the things Genji chose to wear. Hanzo actually liked it, a lot. But no one asked for his opinion. Hanzo had been at university--and running the Shimada Empire drug operations in Kyoto--when that incident occurred. There was not much their father could do about the tattoo, but what he did to the tattoo artist was punishment enough. They never found all of the body. The fire after torched the shop and all the adjacent buildings. It had sent a clear warning to Genji that anyone who helped him with his disobedience would answer for being his accomplice.

 

So the green hair came from a box that he could easily do himself. It was a decision Genji wisely held off until he was away at university himself, no longer under his father’s roof. No doubt he would have had his head forcibly shaved if he had done it any sooner. While Hanzo did not think it looked great--lime green, Genji, really--Hanzo could not have cared less what color his brother dyed his hair.

 

But his opinion did not matter. His opinion never mattered. As long as it was his father’s opinion.

 

The green hair came and Hanzo urged him to change it back, saying all the wrong words with the wrong tone, and all it accomplished was making the hair shorter and spiked. It became another thing that Hanzo had to listen to every time he spoke to his father, another mistake, another failing on his part to keep Genji in line. He heard it so many times, he started to believe it.

 

It was not long before his father’s opinion became his own.

 

That was all a lifetime ago, and it had been so inconsequential compared to all the other major issues from back then, Hanzo had genuinely thought it was safe. All he tried to do was throw out a little tease about his old hair style. What had Genji replied with? One of his unerring punches to the shoulder with far more force than necessary and, “I’d still have it, too, if I had any hair left to dye. Who’s fault is that?”

 

The statement was so barbed he may as well have been trying to catch koi in a pond, but still Hanzo bit and turned defensive. Next thing they knew they were both hissing like the dragons they are, biting words and bodies coiled to strike. All over nothing. Or, what should be nothing but is obviously so much more.

 

There was a time Hanzo would not dream of backing off from one of their fights, back when he actually believed that being the eldest Shimada son meant he was owed respect. Those days are long gone, now. Not for the first time he wishes his name was anything other than Shimada.

 

Hanzo had been the one to retreat this time, all the way back to his room and feeling the chasm between himself and his brother growing larger with every step. At what point will it be so wide that nothing will ever span its width? Or has that time come and gone? Hanzo knows this is his fault; he knew it the very moment he had first raised a blade against his own blood. Every moment of pain since then has rested squarely on his shoulders.

 

Or, as in this case, on his right shoulder. Easing the fabric of his kyudo gi down his other arm, he winces at the sight of a fresh bruise forming right where the bone meets the joint. He crosses to the bathroom so he can investigate further, pressing careful fingers around the mark. Right now the bruise is a fresh red but it is quickly darkening. It will be a perfect purple mark of Genji’s metallic touch by nightfall. Hopefully it does not swell and impede his firing. What is irritating is that he did not even have training with Genji, but he still managed to somehow start a fight with him.

 

Today was his first day of full training with some of the Overwatch team. They practice on a rotating schedule, mixing the group sizes and participants from day to day. It makes sure that there is always a team rested and ready at any given time, and everyone has a chance to work with different agents and adapt to different scenarios. Winston had explained how vital it was that everyone learn to work cohesively, because the duties were to be shared equally, and you could never be sure who you would be working with on any given mission.

 

Hanzo voiced some concerns about that logic to McCree, privately, but McCree had shaken his head. “They just don’t want a repeat of past mistakes,” he replied. “Neither do I.” The answer was cryptic and Hanzo did not put two and two together until later, when he was perched atop a faux rooftop in the training room waiting for another wave of dummy enemies. No, from what he has heard about the old guard from before, they certainly do not want to repeat those mistakes.

 

Things went surprisingly well. The group today had worked on defensive skills. He personally was trying to figure out how to effectively use his scatter arrows, which he has been reluctant to use in battle now that he works with so many people. Everyone was very supportive of helping him figure it out, because they were just as reluctant to get shot by them as he was to shoot them with it. It ended with Hanzo feeling a lot more confident about their next combat.

 

When Hanzo was looking over the training schedule for the upcoming weeks, he had noticed that at no point was he paired with Genji, and only with Zenyatta when there was large group training. It is what prompted Hanzo to seek his brother out afterwards. They simply cannot keep avoiding each other, not to the point that Overwatch has to adjust their entire schedule to accommodate their feud. Unfortunately, it feels like for every step forward he gets knocked back five.

 

Hanzo shakes those thoughts for now and strips out of the rest of his gear, dropping it in a haphazard pile on the floor. A shower sounds sublime right about now. Say what you will about the almost utilitarian facilities but the water pressure for all the showers, personal and in the locker room, is absolutely amazing. He tugs the shower bench back out of the spray before turning on the water, then sits to go about removing his prosthetics. They will go right back on after, but it will feel good to get out of them and clean the remains of his legs of sweat.

 

He has just bent his head to let the hot water sluice down over his scalp and the back of his neck when he hears a musical chime come from the other room. It takes him a moment to connect the noise with an incoming message on his tablet; there are too many alert noises that he has had to memorize since becoming an Overwatch agent. He strains his ears to make sure there is no accompanying alert of a mission, and when none comes he relaxes again. “Athena,” he says to the room, raising his voice over the running water so the A.I. can understand him clearly. “Was that mission-important?”

 

“No, Agent Shimada. You have received a correspondence from Agent McCree, designated ‘Personal.’“

 

“McCree?” Then the last bit penetrates his tired haze and he perks up. “Personal?” An unexpected feeling buzzes just under his skin, curiosity and excitement and anticipation all bundled up together, though he is not sure exactly why. Messages always come with a designation--intel, mission-critical, regulatory--but Hanzo rarely gets something marked personal. Occasional notes from his brother imploring him to join the rest of the team at dinner, and recently he has started a back-and-forth with Mei about pretty much any subject she brings up. The last had been about a book she read recently she thought he might enjoy, but bringing himself to actually agree to read something that most people would consider a trashy romance is a line he has not quite crossed.

 

Which brings him back to the message waiting for him in his inbox, and the man that sent it. McCree is the type that prefers direct conversation over calls or letters. What could he have to say to Hanzo that cannot wait until they are face-to-face? Marked ‘Personal’ no less?

 

The question makes him hasten his washing, thoughts on the cowboy. Hanzo hates to admit it, but he has grown rather fond of McCree in an alarmingly short amount of time. It has been a long time since he has considered anyone a friend. Not that he has had many friends in the past with which to compare. Keeping people at a distance has always seemed the safer option. An option that became a lot harder living in close quarters and working daily with a dozen other operatives. The others are considerate enough to give him the space he needs when he starts to feel uncomfortable, but for the first time in a long time he finds himself not minding the company. Even seeking it out on occasion.

 

It is all McCree’s fault, of that he is sure.

 

Hanzo can admit that he has never met anyone quite like Jesse McCree. After he confirmed McCree had been in Blackwatch and then revealed his association with Deadlock, Hanzo had done some research of his own on the cowboy. It did not reveal much that he was not already aware of, but there were a few points of interest. If he did not personally know how competent McCree was with a gun, he would have thought his exploits with the Deadlock Gang were widely exaggerated. Now, he thinks some of the tales might actually have been downplayed after the fact in an attempt to get their agent out of the limelight. Hanzo was the leader of a criminal empire and even he cannot see how a teenager got into as much trouble as McCree did.

 

The files on his time in Blackwatch are almost all classified or so full of redacted information as to be useless, and the lack of information is more telling than a ream of data. McCree was not joking when he said he spent so much time in the dark. There is a chunk of missing years right after the downfall of Overwatch where McCree is unaccounted for, then he begins to resurface randomly here and there as a mercenary, racking up his already hefty bounty to a whopping sixty million dollars. No wonder Winston has him under strict orders not to go out without escort now. McCree has confirmed some of the incidents from the later years in casual conversation, including his time in Hanamura when he happened to stop a robbery at Rikimaru. Hanzo still has trouble imagining the American trying to blend in amidst the normal clientele at the familiar ramen shop.

 

Given everything he knows about McCree’s past, Hanzo would assume the man would be surly and off-putting and completely intolerable. And yet, he is anything but. There is something about his steady acceptance that makes everything so easy. Something genuine. Optimistic but not idealistic, he might say. Or, at least an idealism that is tempered in reality. Hanzo knows he personally tends to see the worst in situations more often than not, so he is a little surprised to find himself gravitating toward someone with a far sunnier disposition.

 

Not that Hanzo would go so far as to say nothing phases him; there are times where McCree’s eyes go someplace dark and foreign, miles and years away from the here and now, someplace Hanzo cannot touch. Whatever darkness marks McCree’s past is something he keeps close to the vest.

 

Hanzo has not pressed for more. He knows a bit about wishing he could forget past indiscretions, after all.

 

Shutting off the water, he goes about the process of drying off and then reattaching his prosthetics. What McCree said about having Winston take a look at them for repairs or upgrades is sounding more and more appealing. They have not had a proper diagnostic in well over a year, and even though he does his best to clean them regularly there are surely internal mechanisms that need a more knowledgeable hand. He tugs on a pair of fresh boxer briefs before curiosity gets the best of him and he picks up the tablet from the bedside table.

 

Right there at the top of the list is a bolded unopened message from one Jesse McCree. A dozen possibilities run through his head--from hopeful to increasingly negative--before he taps it open. Once he reads it, he does not know why he expected anything else.

 

The common room will be empty tonight. You bring the movie, I’ll make the popcorn?

-McCree

 

Hanzo rolls his eyes. The cowboy did not even bother with a salutation. And then he has to roll his eyes at himself for getting worked up over nothing. He drops the tablet back on the bed and goes to the dresser where he keeps his meager selection of clothes. It would be better to take the evening to himself, he thinks as he pulls on dark gray hakama over his prosthetics. As he puts on a soft undershirt and his green kyudo gi, he reasons that there is paperwork he could be doing for Winston; Genji never mentioned how much documentation went into an organization like Overwatch, but planning and intel and expenses will not write themselves. Wrapping an obi around his waist, he considers that maybe he could take Mei up on that book she recommended. As long as he keeps it in his room, no one would have to know that his taste in books is questionable. Arms above his head he works his gold sash into his hair and glances back at the bed, the tablet still sitting innocently right where he dropped it.

 

“You are weak, Hanzo,” he mutters, walking back and picking it up to type a response.

 

He had almost forgotten what it was like to look forward to something.

 

---

 

Mei is more than happy to loan Hanzo the book. He drops by her workspace and does his best to look like he belongs there when Winston looks over curiously from his own computer console. The girl just winks at him before turning an innocent look to Winston and asking if he can hand her the stylus she left on the other console. While his back is turned Mei pulls the book from the bottom drawer and slides it over to Hanzo. One glance at the cover--a pink and purple affair with frayed corners and the title, The Gentleman Caller: The Latest Novel by Chastity Morningblush in gold leaf--has Hanzo snatching it up and shoving it out of view into the satchel on his obi.

 

“Thank you,” Hanzo says, making sure the buckle of the pouch is secured tight.

 

“No rush,” she replies, voice soft and pleasant like she might be discussing the weather. And then she is. “There’s a low pressure system moving in later tonight. Last chance to see this sunny weather for a few days. You should go out and enjoy it. Maybe find a quiet spot to meditate.” Mei manages to get it out without snickering, and Hanzo has to bite the inside of his cheek not to laugh.

 

“I will keep that in mind.” He gives her a polite bow and heads out, ignoring Winston’s suspicious look between them.

 

Hanzo has always enjoyed reading. Even back when he was meant to be studying his textbooks he always tried to squeeze in time for something recreational. And, like origami, it was an easy thing to do so it became more of a hobby of necessity. Reading only requires source material and time, which Hanzo had in abundance for the past decade or so. He does not have any real attachment to a particular genre, jumping from book to book with his whims. Sometimes he will pick up a book just because it has an interesting cover. So, he reads out of habit, a way to fill the empty space and keep thoughts of other things he would rather not consider from filling his mind.

 

If Mei really thinks he is going to be caught in broad daylight reading something by someone calling herself Chastity Morningblush she is sorely mistaken. That being said, the suggestion is not a bad one. The light filtering through the glass panes is warm and yellow, and once he makes his way outside the complex it beats down warm on his shoulders. It is just starting to get breezy, and when he looks up he can see cumulonimbus clouds gathering in the distance.

 

The base is rather quiet for late afternoon. A shuttle left earlier in the day with Lena, Reinhardt, and Angela on board, off to some secluded spot of Canada where Overwatch used to have a storage warehouse. Athena picked up intel for another possible lead on the whereabouts of the man going by Soldier: 76. Hanzo had been available to go with them but Winston wanted a small team (not that anyone would call Reinhardt small) and for Hanzo to be available if another mission popped up.

 

For now there is nothing but the gentle hum of machinery and the crashing waves at the base of the cliffs. Hanzo wanders with no destination in mind, but as is often the case his feet soon have him seeking out higher and higher viewpoints. It is what leads him up a small path in the cliff face to one of the many hidden outcrops that look out over the ocean.

 

He is not expecting to find a meditating Zenyatta.

 

Hanzo stills immediately when he sees the omnic. Zenyatta is floating a few yards from the drop-off, body facing out toward the water and the sun that is steadily  creeping lower in the sky. It makes the light reflect brightly off the orbs floating in a lazy but balanced circle around his body. He is in meditative pose, hands curled on his knees, the picture of tranquility.

 

A tranquility Hanzo is not prepared to disturb. He takes three steps back, fully intending on retreating to the relative safety of the Watchpoint, but Zenyatta’s buzzing voice breaks the silence.

 

“There is plenty of space, if you wish to join me.” Zenyatta rotates in air and drifts backward, an open invitation for Hanzo.

 

“I did not mean to disturb your meditation,” Hanzo says, still lingering by the path.

 

Zenyatta lifts a hand and gestures to the patchy grass across from him. “Sometimes we need to be disturbed. It is a beautiful day. A shame not to share it.”

 

Hanzo nearly declines. He would not say he had necessarily been avoiding the omnic, but he has not exactly sought him out, either. For his part, Zenyatta has seemed content to let Hanzo dictate their interactions, letting Hanzo set the pace. Maybe it is time, he thinks, reminding himself that the reason he is here to make amends however he can. That might have to start not with Genji, but with his master.

 

As much as he hates thinking of Zenyatta with that role in Genji’s life.

 

Acutely aware of of his prosthetics making noise on the uneven terrain that the omnic would not, Hanzo squares his shoulders and approaches. With practiced movements he tugs the knees of his hakama so the fabric lays even then folds his legs beneath, taking up a sitting position across from Zenyatta. Hanzo is vaguely annoyed to realize that Zenyatta’s floating means his head is well above Hanzo’s own.

 

“I have found this spot to be most peaceful,” Zenyatta says, a few of the orbs around him bobbing in the air to some unheard rhythm. “Do you meditate?”

 

“Yes. In the privacy of my rooms.”

 

“As do I. Though I prefer the open air here.”

 

Hanzo shifts on his knees, settling in on the hard ground. “I imagine it is much different than your old home.” To be truthful Hanzo is not sure where Zenyatta spent his time after the monastery, just knows that his ideology split from his fellow monks and they parted ways. He heard of the death of his Shambali contemporary Tekhartha Mondatta--there is hardly a man, woman nor omnic who has not heard of Tekhartha Mondatta--and that the two were close at one point. Other than the basics, Hanzo knows little of the omnic’s past.

 

Zenyatta chuckles, a metallic little laughs like drops of rain. “There are similarities. I do miss the Himalayas, but there was no ocean view. And, it is much more exciting here.”

 

“Is it not odd for a monk to seek excitement?” Hanzo asks.

 

“I have been told that variety is the spice of life,” he replies. Then Zenyatta gives that little laugh again. “Of course, I do not have the ability to taste, but I understand the sentiment all the same.” Hanzo gives a small grunt in response.

 

They sit in silence for some time, each lost in their own thoughts as the wisps of clouds overhead grow as the minutes tick by. It is peaceful for now, but the charge in the air is building. A calm stillness that prefaces a coming storm. Normally, this is just the sort of weather Hanzo loves. But the presence across from him is making it near impossible to relax and slip into a meditative state. His mind keeps focusing on Zenyatta, on the person who brought Zenyatta to be floating on this mountain top, on thoughts that make his muscles tense beneath his clothes.

 

It is only a matter of time before Zenyatta breaks the quiet stillness. “Something troubles you,” he says, a statement and not a question.

 

When does it not, Hanzo thinks. “It is nothing.”

 

Zenyatta does not have an expression considering he is comprised of metal, but even with nothing but slits and lenses Hanzo feels like he is being contemplated. Then Zenyatta lowers himself down so that he is level with Hanzo just barely above the ground, the sash around his waist coiling on the grass. “There is disquiet in your soul.”

 

There are many things that come to mind in response to that. He takes a moment to choose how he wants to proceed. Zenyatta does not rush him. “You offered your guidance to my--to Genji.”

 

“Yes. Though he was not receptive at first.”

 

Hanzo frowns, confused. “He did not seek you out?”

 

“I stumbled upon your brother while traveling,” Zenyatta clarifies, his hands folding together in front of him. Hanzo recognizes the gestures as mudras, though he could not say what they mean. “After his time with Overwatch ended. I am afraid there is no thrilling story to tell; he was forced to share transport with me through a mountain range during rough weather, and though I am a monk I was never inclined to take a vow of silence. And Genji’s stubborn reticence could only take so much. It was later, after we parted ways, that he sought my tutelage at the monastery.” Zenyatta laughs again. “It was all very serendipitous.”

 

“But you were able to help him,” Hanzo presses. “You showed him how to find peace with himself.”

 

“As best I could. There are still moments, but he has come far. The path to harmony is not always clear and simple.”

 

Hanzo gives a short nod, looking away from the omnic and out at the horizon. It is hazy, as if the rain has already begun to fall out at sea. This is what he wanted to hear, is it not? That Genji might have struggled but finally found his way in the world, despite the horrors Hanzo inflicted on him? All he wants is for Genji to be safe. He wants Genji to be happy. He deserves all the happiness and joy he can get out of life.

 

They why does hearing Zenyatta speak about Genji’s road to recovery make something inside him twist dark and painful?

 

“You saved him,” Hanzo says. The words feel heavy on his tongue, but they need to be said. No matter how he feels about Zenyatta, Genji, or his own turmoil. “Doctor Ziegler repaired his body but you repaired his soul. Thank you, for this. I owe you more than I can repay.” He falls into a formal bow, body low to the ground and palms pressed to the grass. He knows he waited too long to extend this gratitude to the omnic. There was no such hesitation when he sought out the good doctor and offered his unending gratitude for giving his brother a chance at life. Angela had clearly not known what to do with him and after an uncomfortable hug for both parties she had booted him right out the door, insisting that no thanks was necessary and an only half-joking tease about not doing it again. Hanzo thought he might avoid this second humiliating gesture altogether but his conscience seems to have decided otherwise.

 

“You are most welcome,” Zenyatta says, taking the words with much more grace and not drawing out Hanzo’s suffering more than necessary. He waits until Hanzo raises back up to speak again. “I was pleased to hear that you and Genji reconciled. Or, are on the right path.”

 

“We are on a path,” Hanzo allows. He would not call it the right one.

 

“Genji can be difficult at times,” Zenyatta agrees. “I am starting to see that it is a family trait.”

 

It is an innocent enough comment, a little jab, but Hanzo’s hackles raise. “I left such childishness behind many years ago.”

 

“It is not childishness that you suffer from. But you do suffer.” The breeze from the ocean picks up, making Hanzo’s hair move like the grass around them. “Perhaps a friendly ear would be of assistance. Or a friendly audio sensor.”

 

Unimpressed with the offer, Hanzo replies, “There is nothing that you can help me with.”

 

“It would not be the first time someone named Shimada said such a thing to me. You are both very stubborn when you choose to be.”

 

“You speak nonsense,” Hanzo hisses, gritting his teeth. He has nearly had his fill of the monk’s ramblings.

 

Zenyatta’s hands turn upward, fingers changing to a different mudra, and the inflection of his voice turns serious with the weight of his words. “I sense within you the same rage that once consumed your brother.”

 

“We are nothing alike!” Hanzo snarls, surprising himself at how loud and vehemently it comes out.  It is as if the monk dug his metallic fingers right into an open wound. Everything about his posture and position coils for a strike. The dragons stir just beneath the surface, awakened by their master’s emotions.

 

The omnic takes in all of this without so much as a twitch. “We are who we are, regardless of the mantle we wear,” Zenyatta says knowingly, heedless of Hanzo’s anger. One of the orbs jumps upward, the symbol etched into its surface glowing momentarily before lazily drifting back in line with the others.

 

Hanzo’s hands move from their position resting on his thighs down to the grass beside him, one hand fisting the blades between his fingers in the hope of keeping himself grounded. “What he has become is so far from the boy I knew. That is not my brother.”

 

“Can he not be both?” Rather than let him answer Zenyatta adds, “Can you not be both the boy you were then and the man you are now? As fondly as Genji spoke of you, it is as if I can see them both in you now.”

 

It throws Hanzo completely off, the fight leaving him in a rush of confusion. “Genji spoke of me?” he asks.

 

“He often recalled stories of his youth and the brother he loves. Genji holds you in the highest regard.”

 

Hanzo stares at Zenyatta with wide, uncomprehending eyes, mind caught on those words like a fish in a net.

 

Rising without unfolding his legs, Zenyatta elevates back to his customary foot or two off the ground and adjusts the cloth draped around his waist. “I regret that I must depart; I have agreed to meet with Lúcio and Hana. They wish for me to listen to something called electro-synth intuitive techno. Lúcio described it as heavy on the gongs. I will have to keep an open mind.” He pauses a moment to look at Hanzo still staring up at him with turbulent eyes. “You are always welcome to find me, if you have a change of heart. If not, I suggest finding someone to talk to that you trust. Remember that you are among friends here.”

 

Still speechless, Hanzo watches Zenyatta make his way smoothly back down the path and out of sight.

 

His mind cannot seem to wrap around Zenyatta’s words. Could that be true? Could Genji really still care for him, after everything? Not out of some twisted sense of obligation? But it makes no sense. All Hanzo has ever done is drag him down. Belittling him every step that was not the path laid out for them, keeping his mouth shut when Genji needed him the most. And when he should have made a stand he struck his brother down. Hanzo can still feel the give of Genji’s flesh as the blade--

 

Hanzo surges to his feet, covering his mouth to fight the sudden wave of bile that threatens to overwhelm him. These are thoughts he has done so well to keep in check. But no, no, now they’re coming in a torrent that threatens to drown him: the hot gush of blood on his hands and seeping into the weave of his clothes, the hands that gripped Hanzo’s forearms and lost strength as the life drained from them, Genji’s screams turning to struggling, rasping breaths from torn lungs. The beseeching look in his eyes. Those dead eyes.

 

The first drops of rain splatter Hanzo’s chest and neck, then his face when he lifts his head to the sky. The only thing that keeps him from screaming is the coldness of the water, but memories of washing the red from his face have him racing back down the path. He is soaked before he gets back to the base, the gold sash in his hair heavy and clinging to his back. It is a miracle he does not meet anyone in the halls, certain that if he is spotted they will think he is having a heart attack. It feels like he is. He just manages to get to his rooms before the shaking starts in full. He has just the presence of mind to manually lock the door behind him. The heavy clunk of the bolt falling in place is like a nail in the coffin.

 

---

 

The knock at the door is expected. He is surprised it took McCree this long to come searching for him. And he knows it is McCree. Anyone else would start with something a little more polite than the loud banging on his door. Then again, that could just be the headache talking.

 

His suspicions are confirmed when he hears the familiar American accent through the door. “Hanzo?” A beat, then another quick series of knocks. “Hanzo? You in there?”

 

Hanzo has no intention of speaking up, much less answering the door. It would be best of McCree to just turn around, head back to the common room, turn up the volume on whatever ridiculous cowboy movie he plans on watching next, and forget that Hanzo Shimada even exists. Then he hears McCree talking again, but not to the door.

 

“Athena, he in there?”

 

“Agent Shimada is in his quarters, Agent McCree.”

 

“Is he hurt? Do I need t’be breakin’ down the door?”

 

“Agent Shimada does not require medical assistance. His vitals indicate he is alive and conscious.”

 

That is followed by another series of even harder knocks that make Hanzo’s head pound in synch and McCree raising his voice again. “Open up, partner. I know you’re in there.”

 

“Damn computer,” Hanzo mutters under his breath. It’s a struggle to get his prosthetics beneath him after sitting in one place on the floor for so long, and when he does the ends of his legs protest the tingly feeling that shoots through them, like they are not going to hold his weight. Right about now the ventilation duct sounds like a good option for escape, but no doubt Athena would rat him out there as well. The tumblers rattle as Hanzo reluctantly unlocks the door. Bright whiteness of the hallway lights blinds him unexpectedly after the last few hours of darkness, and he finds himself squinting up at McCree. The cowboy has an irritated look on his face for half a second before it morphs into concern.

 

“Well, damn,” McCree says. “And here I was fixin’ to be cross with you. What happened?”

 

It occurs to Hanzo he must look a mess. After his heart stopped jackhammering in his chest and the shaking and nausea subsided he gave little thought to moving from his spot on the floor. His skin still feels vaguely sticky with dried rain and sweat and his clothes feel stiff. There is a chunk of hair hanging down loose in his face.

 

“Nothing,” Hanzo lies. His voice sounds raspy to his own ears. “I apologize. I must have fallen asleep. Perhaps it best if we postpone for another day.”

 

McCree raises an eyebrow and gives him a once-over, then shakes his head. “Naw. Don’t think I’m gonna buy that for a lick, sug.”

 

It turns out Hanzo is not so far gone that he cannot muster up a glare. “I am not in the mood. Surely there is someone else that can keep you company.”

 

“I’m sure I could rustle up someone, but I had my heart set on you,” McCree says with a smile. “‘Sides, your choice for movie this time ‘round, remember?”

 

Hanzo feels his face flush hot sudden and unexpected. “Do I look like I want to watch movies right now?” Hanzo asks, tugging the hair that came loose back behind his ear half-heartedly. He is tired, is that not obvious?

 

McCree’s smile goes from playful to something a little softer. “Actually, I’d say you look like that’s just what you need.” When Hanzo says nothing, just grips the door harder like he is contemplating slamming it, McCree puts a hand on the doorframe and he suddenly feels a lot closer. “Listen,” McCree says gently, “You don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine. I ain’t gonna pry. A man’s got the right to his secrets. But I ain’t gonna find you holed up in your room and just leave you to wallow. You got the look of somebody that could use a distraction. And I seem to recall a certain bowman fussin’ at me just the other day about that.”

 

“And my advice to the others was to ignore you,” Hanzo counters. It is what he should do right now. He wishes his arms would listen to his head and shut the door, McCree’s fingers be damned.

 

“I am a hard man to ignore,” McCree smirks. “I can sweeten the pot for you, if I’m not enough.”

 

That wording rings wrong in Hanzo’s ear but he ignores it to cast an unimpressed look up at McCree.

 

“Not only will you be able to choose the movie, we can hike it over to the old secondary common room. There’s no kitchen and the dorms nearby are empty, so nobody uses it. I’m sure the equipment still works. I can grab us some grub before we head over. But that way we won’t be bothered.” That it will ensure Hanzo will be unlikely to run into his brother goes unspoken, but Hanzo hears it all the same. His eyes cast back to the darkness of his room, all-encompassing, oppressive, and wonders how he got to the point that this ever sounded like a good idea. McCree waits for Hanzo to look back to tell him just that when McCree adds, “And a bucket of popcorn.”

 

Hanzo considers. Well. “All to myself?”

 

“Every last kernel,” McCree replies.

 

If he was not feeling so awful, this would not have been so easy for McCree. That is what Hanzo is going to tell himself, anyway. “Very well,” he says, turning away from the door and heading into the dark room in search of the switch for the bedside lamp. It floods the room with a soft gold glow. “You make a tempting offer. I am still convinced you mixed something toxic into the recipe to make it addictive”

 

McCree politely stays at the door, holding it open with his hand. “Aw, shucks, you say the nicest things, sug,” he drawls, watching Hanzo tug a change of clothes from his dresser. “Want me to give you some privacy? I can go get things started.”

 

“Give me just a moment,” Hanzo says, ducking into the bathroom and out of sight. He knows if McCree leaves there is a decent chance that Hanzo will just lock the door and not answer the next time the cowboy comes knocking. He strips his shirt and splashes his face and chest with water in the hopes of getting rid of that uncomfortable grimy sensation, then runs a comb through his hair before tying it up again. Throwing on one of his workout shirts, he decides that is good enough. He is not in the mood to impress anyone, not even McCree.

 

Not that he sets out to impress McCree normally. What a silly thought.

 

Hanzo flicks the bathroom light off when he opens the door. Seems that although the cowboy is not the type to make himself at home in someone else’s rooms without permission, he is the type to lean in as far as possible from the doorway to snag something off one of the shelves nearby. In this case one of the books he had neatly stacked. Not so neatly now, considering McCree decided he had to look at one from the middle.

 

The hefty textbook looks dwarfed in McCree’s large hands. “Differential Geometry,” McCree says, turning a page and looking like he has indigestion. “This is a thing?”

 

“Yes,” Hanzo says, “It is a thing.” And suddenly Hanzo remembers the book tucked in the satchel at his waist. Good thing he forgot to take it out when he got back to his rooms, or else that would certainly be what McCree would be holding now and Hanzo would never hear the end of it. He turns back to his bed and starts unattaching the clips that hold it in place. There is no way he is risking McCree finding it on him.

 

Luckily the cowboy seems more than distracted. “Riemannian geometry, pseudo-Reimannian geometry, Finsler geometry...symplectic? I have never seen so many nonsense--whoa, wait, is this a black hole?” Hanzo looks over his shoulder to find McCree holding the book up closer. He can probably guess exactly which diagram McCree is trying to figure out. “It is! I think it is. Or a wormhole, which I thought was just sci-fi jabber but since I met Lena anything seems possible.” He looks up at Hanzo. “You know about this stuff?”

 

“I studied it at University,” he replies. The satchel gets placed on the bed along with his canteen. Drinking feels like a bad idea tonight.

 

“No kiddin’. You some sorta math nerd?” That gets an epic glare leveled at McCree and he backtracks quickly. “Meanin’ that in the highest regard, of course.”

 

Hanzo huffs and turns to watch McCree put the book back carefully on top of the others then tuck his hands behind his back like a kid trying not to touch something shiny. “I majored in business and minored in mathematics,” Hanzo explains, ushering the other man out of the room so he can lock it. “I never held much interest in the business side of crime, but it was expected.”

 

McCree looks suitably impressed. “So the math bits was…?”

 

“For me,” Hanzo says, falling in step with McCree as they head for the kitchen. He thinks that to be the end of it but Hanzo glances over and McCree is looking at him expectantly, then nods at him to continue when he looks confused. “It really is not all that interesting.”

 

“Interestin’ enough for you to study it. What about it revs your engine?”

 

“Do you ever say the same idiom twice?” Hanzo shakes his head, amusement tickling him even though he feels so awful. “How do you come up with these?”

 

“Now, don’t get yourself all jealous about my way with words,” McCree grins. “Now c’mon, tell me. You just like all them angles? This some sorta archer thing?”

 

“Maybe, at first,” Hanzo admits, thinking back on it. “It was a subject I excelled in at school, and it was interesting. It did help when I began to practice with my scatter arrows. The first classes I took in college were to fill in requirements.”

 

“But something stuck?” Hanzo bites his lip, feeling almost bashful about it, and McCree picks up on it immediately. “What? You gotta share now.”

 

“You will laugh.”

 

“Probably, but how’s that any different than normal?”

 

This time Hanzo actually smacks him in the arm but there is no heat behind it. “Fine,” he says grudgingly. “I was really into...space. When I was younger. It was so foreign compared to all the other subjects we covered in school or anything I was learning at home. Space, and time, and all the theoretical ideas about how time flowed, and yes, black holes and things like that.” McCree pauses to stare at Hanzo incredulously, and Hanzo shrugs. “It had nothing to do with the yakuza or becoming an assassin, and that was just what I needed.”

 

“Uh huh. Outer space.” McCree shakes his head. “So when Winston is talkin’ about Lena’s chronal accelerator--”

 

“I can follow the conversation, yes. Enough to not be lost, at least.”

 

McCree lets out a low whistle, more than impressed now. “Well if that don’t beat all. You’re just full’a surprises, ain’t you?” By then they have made it to the kitchen attached to the main common room and McCree starts to go about gathering what he needs to make their snacks for the night. Hanzo is shooed over to the table to sit, told that he has not yet earned the privilege of the ‘sacred recipe.’ If he was inclined Hanzo knows he could just watch from afar and probably figure it out, but his head is not in the right place to worry about that tonight. Besides, for some reason Hanzo likes that McCree wants to do this thing for him. Like their own little ritual.

 

In the meantime Hanzo decides to turn the tables on McCree. “What about you? What did you study?”

 

“Oh, I didn’t,” McCree replies with a self-deprecating laugh, moving to the stove and setting up the weird pot he uses for this task. “Didn’t even finish school before I got picked up by Deadlock. Managed to get my GED while I was in Blackwatch, though. Reyes wouldn’t--my commanding officer, he finally made me follow through with it.”

 

Hanzo winces. How is it that he keeps sticking his foot in his mouth today? “I apologize. That was rude of me to assume--”

 

“Naw, don’t you worry ‘bout that. Ain’t nothin’ to be ashamed of,” McCree replies, adjusting his serape before flipping on the burner. “Got more than my share of street smarts, learned plenty of stuff the hard way, and I don’t think I’d have much use for anythin’ else in my line of work.”

 

“What about after Overwatch?” Hanzo asks.

 

McCree looks over his shoulder and says dryly, “Do you really think we’ll all make it to the end of Overwatch?” Hanzo answers with a shrug, so he continues, “When I left last time I ended up doing more of the same, just on my own. There’ll always be people out there hurtin’ others, whether or not Overwatch is around and organized. That’s if we don’t all get caught and strung up by the government first.”

 

Hanzo hums, not liking this turn of conversation. Some of the others--Winston, Lena, Angela, Reinhardt, the ones from the old Overwatch with more clout--have been working to try and garner a relationship with the governments of the world so that Overwatch can work peaceably within their borders. The transition has not been smooth. Seems there is still a lot of ill will toward the organization. He would rather not dwell on that tonight. “You could always retire.”

 

That makes McCree give a snorting laugh and Hanzo smiles. “Retirement. Now there’s a laugh. How borin’ would that be?”

 

“I hear some people enjoy it.”

 

“Quitters, I hear,” McCree jokes, turning his head and giving Hanzo a lazy smile. “You mean goin’ more than a week without getting shot at? Sounds dull.”

 

Hanzo smirks. “I could come around every once and awhile and shoot at you, if it makes you sleep at night.”

 

Something like surprise flashes on McCree’s features before he laughs out loud, grabbing one of the big popcorn buckets off the counter. “You know, as temptin’ as that offer is, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be aimin’ to miss. But I’m sure we could come up with somethin’ else to keep us busy.”

 

He turns his attention back to the stove then as the kernels in the pot begin to quickly pop, thus missing the way his statement makes Hanzo flush dark in his cheeks. The archer surges to his feet, needing to move and not stare at McCree’s back. “What would you like to drink?”

 

Once the provisions are ready McCree leads Hanzo through the corridors of Watchpoint: Gibraltar to a little-used area of the facility. The hallway they take is one that Hanzo had investigated during his first week when he was getting used to the layout of the Watchpoint, but most of the rooms had been either locked or used for storage. Most of the other agents stick to the more convenient common rooms, the training area, or the laboratories since that is where most of them congregate.

 

“New recruits used to be housed down here,” McCree explains as they walk by dark rooms now filled with excess equipment or cardboard boxes collecting dust. “Or troops that were stationed here temporarily to help out with omnic attacks. All the full agents had their own room like we do now, but everyone down here was two to a room. Mostly temporary; they’d be in and out in a few months. High turnover rate back then.”

 

“You lost many soldiers?” Hanzo asks, hoping he is not dredging up old demons.

 

Luckily McCree does not seem phased. “We lost our fair share. It ain’t an easy job, after all. Lot of ‘em weren’t cut out for it, so they backed out of the program or were assigned somewhere else. Ah, here we are.” They round the corner and McCree finds the switch, turning on the overhead.

The room is at least half the size of the main common room with no kitchen attachment, only one folding card table with three mismatched chairs, an old couch with a gouge in one arm, a recliner that probably needs to be thrown out, and a dinky little coffee table with water rings all over it. The walls have some of the old Overwatch propaganda posters tacked up as well as a dart board with the darts still imbedded in the cork. It is easy to see that the new things in the room are the television, which is just slightly older than the one in the main common rooms, and the table lamps which look like a recent addition. Judging by the shape of the room and what McCree said about the people that used to use the it most often, Hanzo would wager the previous lamps were broken on a regular basis.

 

“What do you think?” McCree asks. “It ain’t much, but with just the two of us it shouldn’t be too crowded. Or would you rather go back?”

 

“No, this is good,” Hanzo says, venturing forward and investigating the state of the couch. There is no dust on the fabric, so someone must come by and clean it occasionally. At least Hanzo does not think he will be getting bit by any little creatures in it. Overwatch is at least consistently sanitary. There is a blanket folded on the back that he shakes out and sniffs. Not too musty.

 

McCree sets the snacks and drinks out on the table. “Been thinkin’ maybe I ought to come back here in my off time and shine the place up, maybe replace a few things. It’s all good to hang out with the others but sometimes you just ain’t in the mood to be out there--”

 

“--and not in the mood to be closed up in your rooms,” Hanzo finishes. Not for the first time he finds himself warmed by McCree’s unexpected perceptiveness. He looks around again, thinking about the little-used room. “It has potential. I would not be opposed to helping you with such a task. If nothing else it would make a good room for watching movies. We are the only ones with any taste in that regard.”

 

“Damn right we are,” McCree laughs, checking the connections on the television to make sure everything is in running order. “So, what are we watching?”

 

The movie. Right. “I...I am not sure,” he admits, feeling guilty all over again. “I meant to choose earlier but I…”

 

“No problem.” McCree ghosts right over the lingering sentence and is suddenly sitting by his side handing a tablet over. The screen in front of them flickers to life with in bright blue and Athena’s logo fades in. “Just pick whatever you want.”

 

“I am not really in the mood for a comedy,” Hanzo warns, scrolling through the server listings.

 

“Just pick whatever you want,” McCree reiterates, kicking off his boots and propping his socked feet up on the beaten up table. For some reason that does not bother Hanzo here nearly as much as it did in the main common room. “Not every story has a happy ending.”

 

---

 

In hindsight, perhaps another movie would have been a better choice.

 

Not that Hanzo does not really enjoy Ran. It is a good film--a classic of the genre, a phrase McCree loves to throw around with movies that really are not classics except in his own mind. But Ran is a good story that is based on a Shakespearean play. Hanzo even went so far as to seek out a copy of King Lear and give it a try. But there are some things even Hanzo finds horribly boring and he decided maybe Shakespeare was not for him. He said as much as the opening credits rolled and McCree just laughed and made a teasing comment about how Hanzo must have spent half his life with his nose in a book.

 

So it started out well. But Hanzo picked the movie without giving it much thought. He certainly did not consider that choosing a Shakespearean tragedy might have been a horrible idea.

 

Where normally he would become engrossed in the story, tonight he just finds himself dwelling on the depressing themes of chaos and betrayal between the father and his three sons. First Hidetora turning on his youngest son Saburo for daring to speak his mind and voice doubt in his father’s decisions--well-founded doubts that turn out to be truth. Then Taro and Jiro turning on first their father, then each other. Hidetora’s past coming back to haunt him at every turn. They systematically tear each other apart the moment an opening presents itself, and it easily becomes clear whatever winner comes out at the end of the story will not be one of the Ichimonji clan.

 

Indeed, not every story has a happy ending.

 

Hanzo has hardly touched the popcorn in his bowl despite not eating dinner. He knows he should eat but the thought of it makes his stomach clench. His mind keeps finding its way back to the words Zenyatta spoke earlier, what they could mean, how completely undeserved they are, and his attention wanes a little more.

 

A glance over at McCree reveals the man looks nearly as uncomfortable as Hanzo feels. At some point his hand has reached up and fisted in the fabric of his serape, right at the base of his throat. The muscles there are bunched and tense. He is uncharacteristically quiet as the movie plays, which just makes everything seem worse. Hanzo had been counting on McCree to hold his attention and keep him from slipping further down this path. A mistake. Another of a thousand mistakes he has made, all hitting him like a thousand arrows.

 

“Alright,” McCree says out of nowhere, startling Hanzo from the bleak daze he was in and reaching over for the tablet to lower the volume. “I can’t take this anymore.”

 

“What?” Hanzo asks, filling with apprehension. On the screen Hidetora’s body is bowed over that of his son Saburo’s prone form.

 

“I talked to Genji earlier--”

 

“I thought you said you were not going to pry,” Hanzo says, narrowing his eyes.

 

“Yeah, well, I lied, didn’t I?” McCree replies, ghosting right over that and plowing into the heart of the matter. “He was in the training room havin’ himself a right little pout and since I seem to be the resident Shimada therapist, I asked what was wrong.”

 

“The Shimada what?”

 

“He said he was outta line earlier, with some of the things he said. Pokin’ at old wounds just to watch ‘em bleed.” He tilts his head forward to study Hanzo intently. “He thought he’d get a rile out of you then got more than he bargained for and fell back into those old habits, just like you said. He didn’t mean nothin’ by it. You do know that, right?”

 

Hanzo looks away, the skin around his eyes tense as he tries to maintain a neutral expression. He is too wrought out from earlier to handle this. “It does not matter if he meant it or not. He was not wrong.”

 

“He wasn’t right, either. There ain’t nobody to blame for this, it was just a spat. Problem with you two is you can’t let a word the other one says go unanswered. Gotta always have the last say, gotta be right. I hear that’s just the way brothers are, but y’all are goin’ above and beyond. I’m sure now he’s just givin’ you some space.”

 

“If I was not here Genji would have all the space he could need.”

 

“Aw, hell, don’t get on that again,” McCree sighs. “We went over this. Nobody’s mad you’re here. We’re all pleased as pie that you’re--”

 

“Why?!” Hanzo blurts, turning on McCree. The other man stutters to a halt as Hanzo continues, twisting on the couch to face him, one hand clutching the back cushion and the other fisting in his hakama. “Why? Why should I be here? Why does he even want me here? I should not be!”

 

“Well sure you should--” McCree starts but Hanzo cuts him off, barely stopping for breath.

 

“It does not make sense! I killed him!” His voice breaks, suddenly loud and so unlike himself. He looks beseechingly at McCree, more open than he has ever been, all that fear laid out for once. “I killed my brother. I left him to die. Not our father, not the clan elders. Me, I did that. I killed Genji. And it was...I cannot ever undo that, and I--I don’t understand! All I am is--is a reminder of his pain! All I do is hurt him, over and over again. Everything I say just hurts him! I don’t care what Zenyatta says, it cannot be true! He cannot just trust someone who once killed him! Why would he want to ever see me again? Why has he not just killed me? Why did he not kill me when he had the chance? Why will he not just--”

 

Whatever he was going to say does not make it out as his throat tightens on a sob, and it is only then that Hanzo realizes he is crying. His arms draw inward and he presses a tight fist to his mouth to try and stop the process but it is too late for that.

 

McCree puts both hands palm up like he is calming a spooked foal. “Hey, hey,” he murmurs. “Easy, now. Easy.”

 

“I--I am sorry, I--” he chokes before squeezing his eyes shut, turning his face away. It is too hard to hold in now that the dam has broken and his shoulders shake with the attempt.

 

He barely hears McCree ask if it is okay to touch, and he really does not understand the request but nods anyway. Then Hanzo finds himself wrapped in strong arms and pressed into McCree’s chest. “You’re alright, darlin’,” McCree murmurs, “Just let it out.”

 

That is all the prompting Hanzo seems to need, sobbing hard into the warmth of his companion’s shoulder. His fingers clench at the cotton of the serape on McCree’s back like he might fly off into nothingness without it. Every horrible thought comes to boil at the surface and it overwhelms him so that there are no concrete thoughts, just emotion and the need to cry. It is hard and it is ugly, letting it all out. McCree just rubs comforting circles into his back and keeps murmuring softly into the small space between them, his deep drawl a steady thrum that softens the harsh wet gasps that keep wracking Hanzo’s body.

 

He is not sure how long it lasts, but eventually his weeping dies down to almost nothing except hiccupy little breaths that stutter out of him. Reluctant as he is to leave the warmth of McCree’s embrace, shame and embarrassment are quick to fill in the void left by all those tears and he pushes away weakly. McCree does not let him get far though, setting him back against the couch cushions and before Hanzo can even register the movement the cowboy is sweeping his serape from around his neck and wrapping it around Hanzo’s shoulders. He tugs it securely in place before offering a corner as a makeshift tissue. “Never was one to carry a handkerchief, but this will do in a pinch,” he says, pressing it into Hanzo’s hands.

 

“Thank you,” Hanzo says demurely, dabbing the remnants of tears from his cheeks. He keeps his eyes cast downward. “I do not know what came over me. I am sorry.”

 

“Hush now, you need to talk this out,” McCree says softly, shaking his head. “I’m guessin’ you kept things bottled up all this time, yeah?”

 

Hanzo nods. Who would he have to talk to about this, after all? “I thought it was going better,” he admits.

 

“That’s just when things hit you hardest.” They sit for a moment, and it becomes clear Hanzo might need prompting now that his outburst is over. “You think Genji should've killed you.”

 

“It is what I would have done, if I was in his place. I do not understand why he…” Hanzo shakes his head and drops his eyes to his lap, picking at the threads in the serape’s fabric. He cannot look at McCree as he says this. “I thought I was...not past it. I will never be able to...I cannot change what I did, no matter how much I wish I could. But I was trying to atone, every day, for my actions. My brother was dead and I would make sure to honor him, do what needed to be done.”

 

“And then he wasn’t dead anymore,” McCree says.

 

Hanzo bites his lip a moment. He thought he had cried all the tears he could but saying these things out loud is making him think otherwise. “It hurts so badly to see what I have done to him. I wish that he hated me. It would make sense. It hurts to see him every day, pretending like everything is fine and that there’s some chance...but it does not feel real. Sometimes I think--I think it would be easier if he had stayed dead.” He balls up the corner of the serape and between his fingers. “What kind of man does that make me?”

 

“Human,” McCree replies. Somehow his hand has found its way to Hanzo’s back again, those steady circles grounding Hanzo from working himself up again. “That’s the way we’re programmed. We like to suffer. Think we deserve it. You think you deserve to suffer?”

 

“Don’t I?”

 

“No. Nobody deserves to suffer.”

 

“All I do is hurt him--”

 

“You just think you do. And sometimes Genji is a little shit that is askin’ for a fight.”

 

“Why are you so adamant about this? Why don’t you hate me?”

 

There’s a long moment of quiet where McCree looks like he is deciding something. “You know, I kind of did, once.”

 

Hanzo blinks at him, then blinks again. “What?”

 

“Before we met,” he specifies. “Back before he went looking for you at Hanamura, we talked about it. He came lookin’ for me; knew I’d be most against it, so if he got me on his side it’d be easier with the others.”

 

“Why would you be most against it?” Hanzo asks, feeling an odd swirl of unease in his gut at the thought of McCree’s opinion of him before they even met.

 

“Well, you know…” McCree trails off, plucking absently at the topmost button of his shirt. It is fastened all the way to the top button with a high collar, which would strike Hanzo as odd under normal circumstances. Right now he is paying more attention to the way McCree seems to need to search for this answer. “Me and Genji, we got on pretty well back in the day. Got to be close friends. We talked about things we weren’t too comfortable bringing up to the other agents. Even after Overwatch broke up, we kept in touch. There’s...there’s some people in my past that I’ve got a hard time forgivin’, myself. So we could relate, in a really weird way. Meant I wasn’t too thrilled hearin’ he wanted to go searchin’ you out. After hearing all that hate for so long, I thought he’d done lost his mind. But if he could work through all that and come out the other side with forgiveness and acceptance, well...he convinced me. A lot of yellin’ on both our parts, sure, but, yeah. I figure, you show up, maybe it would give me some hope. I need to believe some people in this world are worth redeeming. So I told him, if I saw you actually step foot on the ground here at the Watchpoint, I’d not doubt him for a second. And here you are.”

 

It is not what Hanzo expected. There is a lot of weight there that Hanzo is not strong enough to carry. “That does not mean I should have been given the chance--”

 

“It don’t matter what you believe,” McCree interrupts. “This is the way it is. You’ve got the chance whether you think you deserve it or not.”

 

Hanzo wants to argue, but McCree has been too effective at shutting it down tonight. And the way McCree talks about hope and forgiveness and moving on makes it hard not to want to believe. It is equally annoying and heartwarming. “It is not that easy.”

 

“Course not, but this has helped, right? Little cry never hurt anybody.” McCree chuckles when Hanzo flushes and turns his head away, patting the man’s back. “Now, this ain’t just all comin’ out of the blue. How ‘bout you tell me what brought this on? You said somethin’ about Zenyatta earlier. He say something to you?”

 

“Do not worry, he did not threaten to beat me up and take my lunch money,” Hanzo says, picking up on McCree’s tone. He can almost imagine McCree as a kid on the playground stalking after the other bullies and keeping order like a little sheriff. He wonders if McCree had any siblings.

 

“But he did say something?”

 

“He...told me Genji loves me.” Saying it out loud sounds so stupid, child-like. And it is embarrassing that something as simple as that would cause such a visceral reaction. But nothing about it is simple to Hanzo. “Even after what conversations we have had...we have not said that to each other in…”

 

“I can imagine,” McCree says. “I’m guessing’ you two were the type that expressed love with dirty nicknames and punches to the shoulder, right?”

 

As if on cue the bruise from earlier throbs dully under his shirt. Hanzo puts a hand to the mark and rubs through the serape’s fabric, considering it in a new light. “Yes,” he says softly. “Exactly.”

 

“So maybe he’s having just as much trouble findin’ the words as you are.”

 

When Hanzo does not respond immediately, McCree nudges him encouragingly. “Maybe,” he allows. “He is a better man that I will ever be.”

 

“Now, I don’t know about that. You’re pretty awesome. But don’t let that go to your head,” McCree grins. “You feel better?”

 

“Marginally. But I think I ruined the end of the movie.” Sometime during Hanzo’s breakdown the final credits rolled and the only thing glowing in the dark room is Athena’s logo.

 

“Just means we’ll have to watch it again, sometime. My mind wasn’t really on it tonight, anyway.” He gives Hanzo’s back one last pat, looking him over as if confirming that Hanzo is not going to fall to pieces if he leaves, then stands to stretch. “But I could tell it was good. Little theatrical. Lord, that fella Hidetora, quite a character ain’t he?”

 

Hanzo’s eyes are automatically drawn to where McCree’s ridiculous belt buckle usually sits. It is a testament to how distracted Hanzo has been that this is the first time he has noticed it is not there. And then Hanzo is diverting his eyes elsewhere when he realizes just where he is staring. “Yes, he is played very intensely.”

 

“Those eyes, man. And him just sittin’ there when the castle was under siege. Those eyes would give a man nightmares,” he laughs. “Makeup artist got a little heavy handed there at the end.”

 

“They were trying to show dramatic aging. At the time that was how it was done,” Hanzo says.

 

“I tell you what was a good decision: color-coding those armies. I swear, if they hadn’t made sure the brothers wore the same color the whole movie and then made their men wear it, too, I’d have been mighty confused.”

 

“You are ridiculous,” Hanzo chuckles before looking forlornly at the bucket of popcorn on the table. He did not even eat half of it. He sighs. It feels like sacrilege. “I guess this needs to be thrown out.”

 

“Oh, Hanzo, you are about to learn a very important fact about my world famous popcorn.” Lifting the bucket he takes a handful and pops them into his mouth. “These will last for days and be just as good.”

 

Hanzo wrinkles his nose. “It will grow stale.”

 

“Oh ye of little faith. I got a lid for the bucket. Just pop it on. I swear, good for days.”

 

“Disgusting,” Hanzo replies, standing and helping gather their things.

 

“You’ll see!”

 

They walk side-by-side back the way they came, McCree expounding on the wonders of two- and even three-day-old popcorn. As they get closer to the main dorms the sounds of activity start to filter out of some of the doors. Lúcio always has some sort of background music playing while he sleeps, and Torbjorn snores as loud as any train, so there is always some noise coming from their closed doors. Remembering that there are other people in the Watchtower besides the two of them sends an odd sensation up Hanzo’s spine.

 

McCree is murmuring something about heading outside for a smoke when Hana comes around the corner from the kitchens. She has two bags of different flavored chips tucked under one arm and she is using one hand to open the tab of an energy drink in the other. Her bare feet pause mid-step when she sees them coming toward her in the darkness.

 

“Evenin’,” McCree says as they approach.

 

“Hi,” Hana replies slowly, eyebrows going up, gaze cutting back and forth between them. Lingering more on Hanzo. “Was there a mission?”

 

“Not for us. Ain’t it awful late to be downin’ one of those things?”

 

Hana scoffs, sidestepping them and walking backwards a few steps. “Are you kidding? I’ve only been streaming two hours; I’m just getting started.”

 

“You’re gonna go cross-eyed,” he teases, and Hana crosses her eyes at him just to be contrary before using the can to give a wave and disappearing into her own room. The sounds of stream donations chiming swells until she shuts the door behind her.

 

“I do not see how she does it,” Hanzo comments, pausing to shake his head before following McCree toward the kitchens.

 

Once the popcorn is securely sealed and stored in the kitchens they find themselves strolling onward toward the landing pad entrance. Even though he is exhausted after the emotional night, Hanzo finds himself reluctant to part ways. And McCree does not bid him goodnight either, instead reaching out to open the doors for Hanzo as they walk. Through some unspoken agreement they have decided Hanzo will be joining McCree for his nightly cigarillo. It does not stop Hanzo from also giving his daily lecture to McCree about how disgusting they are.

 

“I can only imagine how filthy your room is,” Hanzo says from his position leaning with his forearms on the railing. The rain is still falling steadily from the storm but the loudness of water hitting metal overhead is constant enough that it fades into one dull muffled sound.

 

McCree ducks his head and cups the cigarillo as he lights it, and the flare shines in his eyes before he flicks his lighter closed. “I use an ashtray,” he drawls. “What do you think I am, some kinda animal?”

 

Hanzo hums thoughtfully and McCree laughs, elbowing him in the bicep before copying his position at the rail. “But you do smoke in your rooms. Filthy.”

 

“I thought Genji said you smoked?” This is accompanied by an annoying smug grin, and Hanzo rolls his eyes heavenward.

 

“When did he tell you that?”

 

“While back. Is it true?”

 

“I indulge, rarely. I have to be in the mood. And certainly not one of these disgusting things.”

 

“Hey, they ain’t fancy but they get the job done. I roll these myself.”

 

“Why am I not surprised?”

 

“Oh? And what do you smoke, when you get yourself in a mood?”

 

“Loose leaf tobacco, from a pipe.”

 

“No shit, really? What, not one of those corncob deals--”

 

“You are a heathen, you know that?”

 

“Well now I gotta know! Will you show me? I ain’t never tried smokin’ from a pipe before.”

 

“It is an acquired taste. Are you sure you would want to try?”

 

“All the best things in life are acquired tastes.” As if to prove his point, McCree takes his cigarillo out of his mouth and holds it in front of Hanzo. This gets the appropriate offended response McCree was shooting for.

 

“You cannot be serious!” Hanzo exclaims, pushing McCree’s hand away by the wrist.

 

“What? You’d like it, I bet.”

 

“No, thank you, not ever,” Hanzo replies. He watches as McCree puts it back between his lips and inhales, the tip burning orange. “I can smell it just fine from here.”

 

“If I try your pipe you gotta try a cigarillo,” McCree insists. “It’s only fair.”

 

Hanzo is about to retort when the large rotating lights at the far end of the landing pad flick on. With the rain it sends bright white light reflecting off of every surface, and both men have to squint to see when the light rotates back around in their direction. Only now that they are listening for it can they hear motors in the distance. “Must be the others back from their mission,” McCree says, raising his voice as it gets closer.

 

The carrier lands slower than usual due to poor visibility, but soon enough it stops sending mist flying all over the place and powers down. Hanzo and McCree keep back under the overhang, and only then does Hanzo realize he is still wearing McCree’s serape. No wonder he is not as cold as normal. And maybe it is a little selfish but Hanzo does not immediately take it off to give back. McCree looks perfectly comfortable, and if Hanzo is honest it reminds him of the hug McCree gave him earlier. His hands bunch up in the fabric and bring it closer to his throat.

 

He was not expecting McCree’s clothes to smell as good as they do, either. The cigarillo smoke, yes, but also some sort of cologne and the leather from his body armor, and McCree’s own musk.

 

Now is not the time to be thinking about this.

 

The hatch for the carrier opens with a hiss and four figures walk out one after the other. Hanzo easily recognizes Lena, Reinhardt, and Angela, but the fourth is a well-built man with a tall posture. Older judging by the hair, Hanzo thinks, but it is hard to tell with all the rain and the protective visor he is wearing. He is carrying a duffel bag on one shoulder and a rifle in his firing hand, and Hanzo is about to ask McCree if this is the elusive Soldier: 76 the others have been talking about for weeks when he feels the other man stiffens at his side.

 

The cowboy stands and strides forward, stopping a few feet from the walkway blocking the path inside. Lena is the first to reach him and she starts talking like the conversation has already started. “We finally tracked him down, and it paid off! I could hardly believe it myself! Took bloody forever to convince him to come along, let me tell you. I know it’s going to sound crazy, but you have to give him a chance to explain. He had his reasons and it will all make sense, I promise.”

 

Her words fall on deaf ears, and Lena steps aside as the other three scale the stairs to their position. Reinhardt and Angela flank the newcomer with matching apprehensive expressions pointed not at this stranger but at McCree. And Hanzo is starting to realize that this is no stranger. At least not to everyone else.

 

The man in question steps under the awning and lifts his hand to his visor, deactivating whatever function makes it opaque. Through the glass Hanzo can see an aging face scattered with scars, but even roughened by time he can still recognize that face. That same face looked down on them from one of the propaganda posters from the room they just spent half the night in.

 

The soldier gives Hanzo a cursory glance but all his attention is on McCree. McCree, who looks like he has seen a ghost and fight or flight mode is kicking in. “Jesse,” he greets, voice rough as asphalt.

 

With just that one word, fight takes over. It is hard to tell what cracks louder, the broken visor or Jack Morrison’s jaw before his back hits the ground.

 

Chapter Text

Thirty hours after delivering one of the most well-deserved punches that he has ever had the privilege of connecting, Jesse flies out on the first shuttle off Watchpoint: Gibraltar. It took far less than those thirty hours for Jesse to realize he had to get off the base. Now.

 

For once Winston held back his curiosity and did not press Jesse for his reasons. Maybe it was because right now he could hoist any old mission on Jesse and he would gladly take it. Maybe it was because Jesse’s face seemed to be permanently set to seething anger. Either way, when he came to the commander--who deserves the title far more than that low-down no-good snake-in-the-grass weasel of a--either way, when Jesse came to Winston requesting to be put on a mission, any mission at all as long as it took him far from Gibraltar, Winston just nodded and made it happen.

 

The mission itself is easy enough, simple reconnaissance and information extraction. Winston probably did not want to risk anything overly complicated when Jesse was in such a state. For some time now they have been monitoring possible Talon outposts and safe houses all over the world.  The goal is to identify locations where Overwatch might be able to make offensive strikes instead of always playing defense to the terrorist group. But narrowing down locations is tricky business, surveillance and tracking only going so far, and nothing quite beats eyes and boots on the ground. In this case the safe house in question is on a narrow street in a moderate sized town along the northern border of Honduras. All that is required is for someone to monitor the street for a few days to locate its exact location, make sure it is not currently in use, then raid it for any intel. If all goes well Jesse should be home within the week and hopefully have enough time to cool off. And he even has decent company.

 

Having Genji along for the ride is probably not necessary; sure, having a partner to watch your back is always a bonus, but in this case they are expecting no resistance. Even if they find the safe house in-use, Jesse could just radio in for backup and wait before engaging. But Winston had insisted and Genji was already packed and ready, so there was no use fighting it. Jesse would go so far as to say that it is a blatant excuse for someone to keep an eye on him, but since he actually enjoys missions with the ninja he keeps it to himself. Besides, out of anyone Genji is by far the best suited to keep up.

 

Whatever the reasons, Genji joins him in the carrier with their two bags lying between them on the metal floor. Lena is at the helm, and the plan is for her to drop them off well out of town. They will make their way in on foot under the cover of darkness to avoid suspicion. She will pick them up at the rendezvous point in five day’s time, unless she gets an emergency signal. Genji slips easily into the copilot’s seat and Jesse watches from the window as they take off. Just seeing the Watchpoint disappear over the horizon eases some of the horrible hot tension that has been squeezing Jesse’s insides for hours. Distance, he reminds himself. Distance brings perspective. If he does not get some distance and perspective, he is going to shorten the distance between his fist and Jack’s face. Over and over again.

 

They must sense the unease in him because after the first few attempts at small talk Lena leaves him alone. Jesse ignores their quiet murmurings in favor of walking the back of the carrier and eventually wedging himself into one of the jump seats and attempting sleep. It eludes him, but with his hat pulled down over his eyes the other two do not know that. So what if he stews a little in his own anger and resentment. So what if every time he thinks about Jack Morrison walking the halls of Overwatch again he wants to shoot something. So what if that something is also Jack Morrison.

 

The sorry son of a bitch had not even had the decency to look surprised, sitting on his ass in a puddle that night. Angela and Reinhardt sure had, the latter rushing to get between them and the former gasping his name in shock before kneeling down to help Morrison to his feet. But no, Jack looked like he had been expecting it, giving a resigned sigh as he rubbed his jaw and cradled his visor in the other hand. At least that had shown a nice satisfying crack in the casing, though it will probably be fixed before they get back from their mission.

 

Angela had attempted to chastise him then and there but Jesse would hear none of it. Instead he just jerked free of Reinhardt’s hold and stalked back through the hallways to his room where he promptly locked the door to any and all interruptions for the rest of the night. The one thing he regretted was realizing too late that he left Hanzo behind. He has no idea what the other man thinks of what took place. Someone must have filled him in, though, because Hanzo steered clear of Jesse and they had not seen each other before he left. Probably for the best; Jesse was hardly fit company and he is not about to take out his frustrations on the archer. Still, he wishes he would have...done something. At least said goodbye.

 

God damn it, even from beyond the grave that asshole has to drop in and ruin Jesse’s good time.

 

It is downright asinine that Morrison pretended to be dead all these years. Hell, Ana might be off the grid but at least she kept in touch. Not that the world at-large knows that. Not even all the agents know that, per her request. But after her disastrous run-in with Widowmaker (he refuses to call her by her given name; that is a torture he has no desire to put himself through) Ana had decided enough was enough. She gave some of the best years of her life to Overwatch, and the returns were diminishing. The mission had been her life for so long, and losing an eye had been a wake-up call. Ana had no desire to watch more people she cared about gunned down at the other end of a scope, and she had Fareeha to think about.

 

Jesse still has that first letter Ana sent him after she disappeared. The creases are well-worn and the paper thin, but if he closes his eyes he can still smell gardenias on the inside. The words had been in her familiar curving script; who even knew how to write in cursive anymore, other than Ana? It had been filled with things the older woman would have never said in person but Jesse desperately needed to hear.

 

...so sorry you had to find out this way. But you know how we are. If I came back, I would never leave...I want to spend time with Fareeha. I’ve missed so much, and she deserves more…no one makes me laugh like you do. I’m going to miss my little charmer...need you to be safe, for me. It will break my heart if you...I am so proud of you, Jesse McCree…

 

I’ll always be here if you need me.

 

The letter is tucked safely with the others in a fireproof box under his bed along with other items Jesse would rather die than lose. He had been mad then, too, when that first letter came. Mad, but not at Ana. Never at Ana. More mad at the situation, that she felt the need to stay away, that her concerns were valid. If anything, her decision had made him start to question his own choices. Made him realize he had choices at all. If not for her leaving, Jesse is not sure he would have considered it himself. Ana was always good at being a guiding hand, even when she had no idea she was doing it.

 

Not like Morrison, who made decisions for everyone without regard for what they needed, who was too focused on his own agenda, who kept them all in the dark for nearly a decade thinking he was dead and buried. Jesse has half a mind to find that ridiculous memorial and take Reinhardt’s hammer to it, if he could only lift the thing.

 

“McCree.”

 

Jesse startles horribly from the light doze he must have slipped into, jerking his hat off and his folded leg falling down to the floor with a loud clang of weight. Genji is a lot closer than expected. The cyborg does not have facial expressions but Jesse’s gotten pretty good at reading the subtle shifts of body language. Genji looks amused. “We’ll be landing soon. Be ready to move.”

 

“Right, ‘course,” Jesse replies and shoves the dark gray hat on his head again.

 

The carrier glides over the tops of pine and palm trees alike before settling in a clearing in the mangroves, just far enough from roads and houses that no one will notice the drop-off. Lena keeps the engines running and turns in her seat. “You boys be careful out there,” she yells as the door flips down to let them out. “At least one of you have your radio on at all times. You remember the rendezvous point?”

 

Jesse nods, slinging his bag over his shoulder. “Just outside the Biosphere Reserve.”

 

The pilot gives him a concerned look. “You got everything? Do you need me to--”

 

“This ain’t our first rodeo,” Jesse cuts her off, giving a small wave. “Five days. We’ll be there.” He does not wait for a reply, instead walking down the ramp with his head ducked to keep the exhaust from whipping his hat off, black serape tangling around his shoulders harshly. Genji bids her farewell and follows, his own bag tucked over the shoulder opposite his katana. Loose grass and leaves kick up around them in a hectic whirlwind as the carrier rises and carries Lena away, leaving the two men on their own. The absence of the engines makes the following silence thump in their ears. Jesse takes a look at his watch. “Five miles south-southwest, right? We should get there just after dark.”

 

Genji turns and points the direction they need to head. Jesse will forever be jealous that the cyborg actually has a built-in compass in that helmet he is sporting. “That way. We could follow the road but it is more likely someone will stop for us.”

 

“Prefer to avoid that, yeah.” Jesse hoists his bag properly over his shoulder and they start forging a path through the sparse and muddy woods. “Glad I changed my boots.”

 

“Good thing you left off the spurs in this undergrowth. Your normal gear would have been uncomfortable,” Genji comments, finally bringing up Jesse’s outfit. “I have not seen you dressed like this in a long time.”

 

“I could say the same for you, partner.”

 

Genji has switched out the outer casings of his armor for darker metals of cobalt and carbon fiber, then covered it all with more conventional clothing so his cyborg status is not as obvious unless you look him in the face. Putting the deadly assassin in practical clothes always makes the normally strong looking man seem smaller and more fragile for some reason. He even has a navy blue ballcap pulled over his head, modified to make the metal protrusions look less intimidating.

 

For his part, McCree is dressed in the blacks, browns, and grays of his Blackwatch days. Not the official uniform, if you could even call what they had back then official since being easily identified kind of defeated the purpose of being in Blackwatch, but something close. Most of his tactical gear is stored in the bag over his shoulder but the few things he is wearing are concealed under a dark gray hoodie and black serape, his normal hat switched out for a less conspicuous fading black leather. He misses his cowboy boots, but the black combats on his feet are a familiar comforting weight. Most noticeably absent is the weight on his hip, Peacekeeper in a holster up higher under his arm and out of sight.

 

The wakizashi Genji usually carries is tucked away as well, but there is no hiding the katana on his back. “We do not look suspicious at all,” Genji says sarcastically, the vents under his clothes making a soft hissing noise.

 

“We’ll look less out of place once the sun sets,” McCree insists, taking the lead between narrower trees. He sets a steady pace that Genji follows easily. “All we have to do is find a few cozy spots for surveillance. Hopefully there’s a hotel on that street. Get some street food, settle down, relax...”

 

“It will be just like old times. Nearly the whole gang back together. Give or take a few.”

 

Jesse’s shoulders curl inward slightly and he shoots Genji an annoyed look over his shoulder. “Really? Couldn’t even wait ‘till we got there?”

 

“It is a long walk, and you need to talk about it,” Genji says, unfazed.

 

“Ain’t nothin’ to talk about,” Jesse states, turning his eyes ahead and keeping his focus on the uneven ground. His companion says nothing but the silence is expectant. “There ain’t.”

 

“Of course not.”

 

There is a beat, then another. Jesse is the first to break.

 

“He’s just an asshole, is all.”

 

“We already knew that.”

 

“A major asshole.”

 

“Commander. Well, former. Is he still a commander?”

 

“Fuck that, no he ain’t. Not worthy of the title. I ain’t callin’ him that.”

 

“We are in agreement about that.”

 

“Like, what the hell? What the hell, man? Lettin’ us think he was dead all this time, and it ain’t like he didn’t know how to find us! Maybe not you and me but somebody! Angela, she didn’t disappear into nothin’ after Overwatch, or Reinhardt, half of us were easy enough to find. Hell, they were at his damn funeral and he couldn’t even send off a how-do-you-do?” Jesse’s boot steps harder than necessary on a fallen log as they pass over it, making the decaying wood snap loud as they go. “Rat bastard made Angela cry.”

 

“To be fair, we’ve both made her cry, too,” Genji points out.

 

“That’s different, you were ‘bout two stitches away from death and I--” Jesse cuts himself off, prosthetic tightening into a fist and he tugs at his serape irritatedly. “We didn’t choose dyin’.”

 

Genji laughs a little. “You are so overdramatic.”

 

“Uncalled for!” Jesse scoffs. But he is starting to loosen up, Genji’s banter doing more to ease his troubled mind than anything else.

 

“He has his reasons, whether or not they are good ones,” the ninja says sensibly. “He did have someone try to assassinate him.”

 

“Because he couldn’t make nice with the one guy more dedicated to Overwatch than he was.” Jesse holds up a hand to stave off the next comment. “I know, I know, it’s all very bad, everyone made mistakes. We’ve covered that before.”

 

“Are you really that mad he stayed off-grid?” Genji asks, moving forward to fall in step with Jesse. “Knowing the target he had on his back?”

 

“It wasn’t just him,” Jesse grouses, thinking about avoiding this conversation by shoving Genji down in a bog of mud. But the ninja would probably just yank him down too, and Jesse would rather not walk most of the way in soggy jeans. He side-eyes Genji’s profile for a moment. “No, I ain’t blamin’ him for that. He coulda handled it better, though.”

 

“Fair enough. What is it, then?”

 

Jesse rubs a hand over his face. “I don’t know.” And that is partially true. His feelings on the matter are all a jumbled up mess. There are a lot of conflicting emotions he really thought he would not have to deal with anymore, considering the sources of his worries were both dead in an explosion.

 

Genji sighs, from both his metallic voice box and the vents along his shoulders. “Jesse, chances are he does not even know what happened.”

 

“He would have known if he’d stuck around after Zürich.”

 

“Jesse…”

 

“If he would have listened, Zürich might have never happened and we wouldn’t even be here! If Gabe--”

 

His companion reaches out to snag Jesse by the crook of the arm, halting their progress. Jesse allows it. He lets Genji take a lot of liberties the other agents never earned. “We can wonder what-if for the rest of our lives, but what happened between Jack and Gabe was inevitable,” Genji states firmly, holding Jesse’s gaze despite having his eyes obscured. “You can’t blame yourself for that any more than you can blame one or the other or any of us. We all should have done more, but out of everyone...out of all of us, you are the least to blame. You know that, right?”

 

Jesse does not answer, eyes falling away and settling non-focused on the middle distance. Genji shakes his head. “You should talk to him.”

 

“I don’t need his pity.”

 

“It is not about pity. He should know the truth. I think he owes you an apology, but you need to move on, too. And it sounds like he is going to be sticking around--” This is met with something strangled between a groan and a whine from McCree, but Genji plows on, “--so it would be good for everyone if you worked it out.”

 

“I’m not takin’ orders from that shit-head,” Jesse practically spits.

 

Genji considers him a moment, then says, “If Morrison is dead, then Soldier: 76 is a private. At this point I think you outrank him.”

 

That seems to be the right thing to say, because Jesse’s head bobs in a satisfactory nod and he readjusts the strap of his bag on his shoulder. “Damn right,” he says, beginning to walk again and Genji moving to follow.

 

“Sounds like it was a good punch,” Genji says leadingly, glad to hear that Jesse’s mood is improving.

 

“The best,” he replies, grinning and considering a cigarillo. Probably not a good idea in the middle of the woods, though.

 

“Bet it felt good. You should have got one in for me.”

 

“Well, there’s always next time.”

 

“I was nearly mad at you about it. You could have waited until I was there to witness it. But Athena had it on the security footage so I guess I will forgive you.”

 

Jesse lets out a surprised laugh and Genji kicks forward, tripping him a little, ever the little brother. “Oh, shit, it’s on film? I’m gonna have to get a copy of that!”

 

The rest of the walk is filled with much more light-hearted chatter. Genji was always one of Jesse’s favorite agents to team up with, and it is good to see that times have not changed in that regard. One being Overwatch and the other being Blackwatch, they were often assigned on vastly different missions. Blackwatch had been chomping at the bit for Genji to sign on as one of their own, but the cyborg would always have a special place in his heart for Angela and the organization that originally saved his life. Still, Genji and Jesse had spent many a day-off in each other’s company exploring the areas surrounding the Overwatch bases, getting into and out of trouble. On the rare occasions they were teamed up on a mission it was a real treat.

 

They grow quiet as the sun sets and the trees give way to a mixture of residential and industrial buildings. The town itself is like a thousand other towns Jesse has staked out over the course of his career; probably used to be prosperous once upon a time, but the jobs up and left or the local government decided to walk on the wrong side of the law. It has the feel of an economy breathing its death rattle, where the graffiti on the sides of warehouses is years old because even the delinquents have stopped caring enough to rebel. The kind of place perfect for shady business deals to go down unchecked and a the goings-on of a terrorist group like Talon to go unnoticed.

 

It takes less than an hour for Genji to locate the street in question--tightly packed apartments and low-income shops stacked on top of each other with barely enough space between them to constitute alleys. Most of the buildings are on the older side, patched up and shoddily repaired. The road itself is narrow, barely wide enough to fit two cars side-by-side with cracked sidewalks flanking both edges, everything covered in the dull beige of dust. Clothes lines stretch between the buildings and power lines over those create complex geometric patterns in the sky.

 

By the end of the first night they have rented a room two blocks over in an equally ramshackle apartment under fake names, completed a preliminary scouting of the road from both the street level and the opposite roofs thanks to Genji, narrowed down which buildings were possibly the house they are looking for, and determined an exit strategy if things go south. All in all a productive night.

 

Genji leaves Jesse to get some much needed rest and returns in the early afternoon with information and food. The food being the more important thing. “Straight from El Gallo y La Luna, ” Genji says, butchering the pronunciation horribly as he sets a white paper bag on the table next to the full bed they will be sharing for the next few days. The cowboy wastes no time digging the food out. “It is that little shop one street over, the one with the bus stop out front. I did not recognize some of the fruit they had for sale. You know more about this cuisine than I.”

 

“Chorizo,” Jesse groans, ignoring Genji in favor of salivating over the spicy aroma. Quick fingers unwrap a deep fried tortilla filled with chicken and delicious red sausage with egg and vegetables all flavored perfectly. He takes a bite without further ado, and Genji shakes his head at the near pornagraphic moan that Jesse gives in response to the amazing taste. He takes two more bites before trying to say something to Genji that sounds like a pig rooting for truffles.

 

“Nani?”

 

Jesse manages to swallow before repeating, “Your Spanish is still shit, by the way.”

 

“I know,” Genji replies, reaching up and detaching the faceplate of his mask. His voice comes out unmuffled as he sets it aside. “I think from now on you should go get our meals. The woman at the counter kept laughing at how I pronounced rice.”

 

“One day you will learn to roll your R’s.” Jesse makes sure not to acknowledge that Genji has bared his face until after the other man has retrieved his food from the bag and begun eating. It took some time before Jesse learned Genji’s particular quirks, but once he figured it out he has always been sure to follow the unspoken rules. Genji is not exactly self-conscious per say, but there is a part of him that will always be sure people are going to recoil upon seeing his appearance, no matter how many times they have seen his scars or the uneven places where flesh and metal meet. Giving him a few minutes to adjust to the open air on his skin and the knowledge that his expressions are no longer hidden does wonders for his confidence. “How did the the morning go? Any leads?”

 

The cyborg begins opening the wrappers of his own food and sets out napkins for them both. “I have eliminated half of the possible locations. It should not take long to narrow down the rest. It would be simpler if this place was not as suspicious of omnics.”

 

“Someone give you trouble?” Jesse asks, frowning. He is not worried about Genji, of course. It is more worrying about the poor sap stupid enough to pick a fight with a world class assassin. At least Genji’s temper is not what it used to be.

 

Luckily Genji just shakes his head. “Just a feeling,” he replies. “I think it best I stay out of sight as much as possible.”

 

Jesse can feel his companion’s mood dropping and that just will not do. “No hot sauce?” he asks to change the subject, checking the bag.

 

“Is it not hot enough?” Genji frowns down at his own meal--rice and beans and cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla that is softer than Jesse’s with a small container of mixed fruit that Jesse will have to identify for him. “I cannot tell.”

 

“You know me, the hotter the better.” He takes another huge bite, chipmunking it to say, “It’s good though, don’t worry about it. You like yours?”

 

“Not awful. What are these?” he asks instead, pointing at the little chunks of orange mixed in with what he knows are plantains and mangoes. The consistency is different than the mango and the fruity scent that wafts out of the container when he opens it is not one he recognizes.

 

Jesse leans over and takes a peek. “Jocote,” he says, smiling at the curious look Genji gives the foreign fruit as he plucks a cube between his metal fingers. “Around here it’d be called ciruelas, I think? I’ve heard it called hog plums, too. They’re pretty good.”

 

“You have had it before?”

 

“Yeah. Go on, give it a go.” Jesse goes back to his food but watches as Genji sniffs the piece of jocote. Watching Genji try something new is always a rewarding experience. From what he has mentioned from his life before Overwatch, Genji was an adventurous eater that enjoyed the finer things in life. But the procedures he went through to save his life involved a lot of harsh, unforgiving chemicals coursing through his veins. One of the unavoidable side-effects was his taste buds being rendered almost completely useless. It had been one of the things that drove Genji nearly mad, losing most of his sense of taste. Such small pleasures being taken away can really weigh down someone’s mind. Who knew that something so inconsequential and easily taken for granted would have such an impact? It was a reminder to all of them how important the little things can be in their line of work.

 

The only flavors that Genji still consistently registers are the sweet and tart juices of fruits, and even then only fresh fruit seems to give the same vibrant sensations that they once had. So it never fails that the first thing Genji wants to do on a mission (after the important job-related activities) is find a place that sells tasty, fresh fruit, the weirder the better. After deeming the scent satisfactory, Genji carefully places the chunk of Jocote on his tongue and chews it slowly. Jesse grins as his eyes light up.

 

“This is good!” Genji quickly finds another piece and takes a bite, fully intending to not share a single morsel. Jesse does not mind. “Like a mango and a strawberry. Jocote, you said? Jo-co-te?”

 

“Pronounce it like it starts with an H,” Jesse says. “Jocote. And I’m glad you like it.”

 

“It is delicious. I need to get more.”

 

“I can pick you up a few on the way out.”

 

“They sell them in five pound bags.”

 

Jesse gives Genji a dubious look. “You’re not buying a bag of jocote.”

 

---

 

The knock at Hanzo’s door is a fast and energetic rat-a-tat-tat , enough to rouse but not startle him from his meditation. Hanzo can feel the dragons beneath his skin shift in mild irritation at the disruption; he has been having such trouble with it lately, and meditating is as much for their peace of mind as his own. With a sigh, he goes and answers the door to find a chipper-as-always Lena on the other side dressed in civilian clothes.

 

“Morning, Hanzo!” she greets with a wide smile. “Hope I’m not interrupting?”

 

“Good morning,” he replies with a polite nod, feeling vaguely undressed with his hair hanging loose. “Nothing important. Was there something I can help you with?” Hanzo looks down again at her outfit. “You do not look dressed for a mission.”

 

“You like?” Lena asks, doing a little twist to show off her stylish capris paired with a scoop-neck tank top and three-quarter sleeved jacket in a fetching cornflower blue. Her tennis shoes have little floral patterns on the canvas and she even has bangles hanging from her wrists. A pair of colorful aviators is clipped to the collar of her shirt. “I’m headed down to the city for a supply run. We have a food shipment waiting for pickup and I thought I’d run a few errands, walk around. I like to make a day of it, you know?”

 

“Right,” Hanzo says, even though no, he actually did not know that. Lena does not seem to notice either way, moving right along with the conversation.

 

“So yeah, it was Jesse’s turn to do all this with me, but he’s not here and I thought I’d ask if you wanted to tag along? I’ve got a list of things to pick up for everyone while I’m there, and loading the truck, which isn’t a problem, I can handle it, but it would go faster with two people, and I usually grab a bite to eat and do a little shopping, but I can cut that out if you aren’t in the mood, it’s just such a nice day out I wouldn’t want to waste it, and--” Lena cuts herself off to suck in a breath, then realizes she has been rambling and laughs. “Sorry! Information overload! I just thought I’d ask, but it’s okay if you’re busy.”

 

It is only because Hanzo had to deal with a hyperactive little brother growing up that he is able to follow Lena’s stream-of-consciousness babbling, but he gets the gist. This is not the first time Lena’s asked him if he wanted to go into town, but he has always had a ready excuse. Thinking of his promise to himself to put forth a better effort, he does not allow himself the time to think of another reason to deflect. “Can you give me half an hour to get ready?”

 

Lena’s eyebrows shoot up her forehead in surprise, then she shines one of her brilliant smiles at him. “Great! I’ll meet you down at the garage when you’re ready! Dress casual, and leave your bow.” The statement makes him stiffen and she shrugs. “It’s part of our agreement with the local government; when we go into town, any weapons need to be concealed so we don’t make the locals nervous. And I don’t think you’re hiding that thing too easily, do you?”

 

“No, I suppose I am not,” he sighs, nodding in agreement. It makes sense. They are here because of the goodwill of the people. “I take it you are armed?”

 

The pilot pats the side of her jacket where one of her pulse pistols is tucked in a high holster. “Can never be too careful. If you need anything, just make sure it’s out of sight.”

 

Which is how thirty minutes later Hanzo finds himself riding shotgun in a box truck headed down the narrow paved road that winds through the woods at the base of the Rock of Gibraltar. He feels oddly naked without his quiver on his back or his storm bow at his side, but the cleverly hidden blackjack attached to one of his prosthetics makes him feel secure. Lena chats the whole way down the mountain about what they are going to pick up (perishables for the month and some random provisions), the road they are on (hidden carefully from outsiders by a carefully concealed gate and a section that makes the path look like a stretch of abandoned logging road), how nice the people in town are (you couldn’t meet a nicer bunch of folks, I promise!), and a dozen other topics. Hanzo gives the appropriate nod or hum of agreement when prompted, letting her dictate the conversation completely.

 

Just getting out of the Watchpoint and seeing something new instantly does wonders for Hanzo’s mood. They end up rolling down the windows to let in the scent of fresh cool sea salt and heavy damp earth, and the breeze that ruffles his tied hair feels fantastic. Hanzo finds himself leaning with an elbow out the window watching the forest give way quickly to a city bustling with all manner of people. It is still early enough in the day that the tourist shops are just now coming to life, cafes and shops opening their doors and colorful umbrellas over outdoor seating. Omnics and humans walk down the street and barely give each other a second glance, or they stop to say hello to each other like friendly neighbors. At one of the stoplights they spot a British service woman letting a small girl with pigtails try on her beret.

 

“A lot of military here,” Hanzo comments. It is the fifth or sixth soldier he has seen since they got in city limits.

 

“The military base is nearby,” Lena says as they wait for the light to switch. “Have you really never been down to the city?”

 

“It did not seem important,” he replies. Hanzo is starting to think he should have made it a higher priority. The dragons feel pleased with the change of scenery just as much as he does. “Do you come down often?”

 

“Oh sure! I used to spend all my spare time in town,” she supplies helpfully. “Goodness, between missions I think half of us were painting the town red every night. Back then there were so many soldiers stationed up at the Watchpoint, us agents just had to get out of there or we would go mad, I tell you.” Lena looks over at him and shakes her head. “All those hot shots that fancied themselves on the fast-track to the top. There’s only so much testosterone we could take.”

 

Hanzo’s lips twist with amusement. “I was under the impression you were a hot shot yourself.”

 

“Ha!” she laughs, looking back out the window at the road as they get moving. “Fair enough! But, at least I had the skills to back it up,” she adds, miming buffing her nails on her shirt and giggling at her own joke. “No, seriously, that is one part of Overwatch I don’t miss. The people funding us built it up to be so glamorous in all the recruitment propaganda, and you can see how it really is. A lot of hard work and not a lot of thanks.”

 

“So why do you do it?” Hanzo asks.

 

Lena shrugs. “It’s worth the rewards. Ah, here we are.” She turns into a lot next to a nondescript warehouse and backs the truck up to a loading dock. There are workers going about their business but one one in a navy jumpsuit comes over to greet Lena. They talk business but it seems the guy knows her as a regular, because soon enough she is leading Hanzo down the sidewalk toward the collection of shops downtown.

 

“I was not expecting that to go so smoothly,” Hanzo says as they stroll.

 

“How else did you think we got all our food and medical supplies and laundry detergent?” Lena replies. “Has to come from somewhere.”

 

“I guess I never really thought about it.”

 

“I never did either. We used to have employees that handed all that stuff, but now…” Lena shrugs, letting out a resigned breath. “Until we square away things with more countries that want us shut down, we’ll be doing our own grocery runs. Have to be a bit of a dogsbody.”

 

“A...what?”

 

“A dogsbody. You know, someone who has to do all the work.”

 

“Why do all you English speakers have such odd sayings?”

 

Lena smirks. “It’s not a bunch of bollocks just because you can’t understand it. But I can stop if you’re going to get all argy-bargy.”

 

“That--there is no way that is a real thing,” Hanzo accuses, making Lena giggle.

 

“You’ll just have to figure that out, luv.”

 

They come to a crosswalk and have to wait on traffic, cars rolling by. Hanzo puts his hands in the pockets of his hakama. “If it would help,” he offers, “I could make the trip, sometimes.”

 

She shakes her head. “It’s alright, it’s not your job.”

 

“I am starting to see that there is a lot more to being an Overwatch agent than I expected, and I want to do my part,” he says. This is hardly the first thing he has noticed. Reinhardt unloading shipments from the carriers, McCree taking careful stock of the ammunitions inventory, Fareeha making sure there is always fresh linens in the shared supply closet, Torbjörn replacing the stove when it decided it had cooked its last meal. They are in this together. “Besides, it is not a burden.”

 

Lena looks over at him for a long moment, her lips tilting up on one side. “That would be awesome,” she says. The pedestrian light across the street dings on and they make their way across the walk, Lena pulling a list out of her pocket as she goes. “We do need to pick up a few things before we have any fun. Hana always wants snacks from the specialty shop down the way, Torbjörn wants a...whatever this thing is he has written here, is that even real words? It doesn’t look like real words. And Mei has a book she ordered waiting for her at the bookstore that way.”

 

She shows the list to Hanzo and yes, Torbjörn has written some form of chicken scratch that may or may not be words on the list, but he does recognize ‘socket’ and ‘voltage,’ so maybe someone at a hardware store might understand. “Tools were never something I understood,” he says, “But if you want to split up, I can go get Mei’s book. It is the opposite direction.”

 

“Sounds like a plan. I’ll meet you...over there?” she asks, pointing at a decorative fountain down the street. “Shouldn’t take too long.”

 

And so they part ways, Lena to find someone that might be able to decipher the gibberish Torbjörn left her with, and Hanzo to the bookstore. To be honest he is pretty sure what book Mei is waiting for, and sure enough when he gives her name to the quiet young woman working the counter she brings exactly the book he had been expecting from the back room: Romance on the Ramparts by Chastity Morningblush. He makes the purchase and manages to hold a dignified face despite the judgment of the only other patron in the store, then heads back to the meeting spot to find a comfy bench. Barely sparing a glance at the glossy cover sporting a stylized crossbow with ivy growing over it, Hanzo cracks the book open and quickly becomes absorbed in the story. Mei can forgive him for it, but he simply cannot wait.

 

That is how Lena finds him an hour later, already on chapter two. Hanzo does not even hear her come up next to him which makes him startle horribly when she says right in his ear, “Good reading, luv?”

 

Hanzo nearly drops the book, the noise he emits is embarrassing. Lena just laughs and plops down next to him. “You didn’t strike me as a romance novel enthusiast.”

 

“Nonsense,” he denies quickly, shoving the book back in the little plastic bag it came in. “Just passing the time. Did you figure out what Torbjörn was asking for?”

 

It is a flimsy attempt at distraction, but Lena lets it and the dash of pink on his cheeks slide. “Yes, after having every guy at the store try to decipher it. I still don’t really understand what I bought, but it was heavy as a bag of bricks, so I went ahead and stored it in the truck. We still need to get Hana’s snacks but we can do that last. So! What do you want to do?”

 

“Do?” Hanzo glances around at the random assortment of shops around them and the people going about their day. “I had not given it much thought. Is this trip not for you?”

 

“For you, too. And this is your first time! We should do something you want to do.” When he does not readily offer up an idea, she says, “Maybe we could pick you up some new clothes.”

 

“I have clothes,” he says a little defensively.

 

“You have a lot of the same clothes,” she counters, plucking at his sleeve. “Your battle gear and your lounge wear. This is just a red version of what you wear on missions and worn properly. What about if you want to go out casually more often? And when it gets cold? You’re going to end up in Siberia and freezing your nethers off.”

 

Hanzo gives a half-hearted glare, but maybe Oxton is right. It has been a while since he bought something that was more for comfort than function. Carrying everything he owns in one or two bags has made him a lot more selective in his purchases. Usually he only buys clothes to replace those damaged during battle. He can hardly remember the last time he bought something just because he liked the cut or the color. There was a time when he had a rather extensive wardrobe of fine silks and sharp suits. Of course, at the time he also had a stable home, an extensive closet, and lead a lucrative criminal empire.

 

But he has no desire to go back to the way he used to dress. Maybe something of a compromise. “What would you suggest?”

 

---

 

Hanzo collapses into the booth like a marionette with its strings cut. Never before has he been so thankful to have lost his legs, because he can only imagine how much his feet would ache after shopping with Lena Oxton. If he gives it too much thought he could probably get sympathy phantom pains. His thighs and arms feel strained enough as it is and his fingers actually got numb at one point trying to hold all the handles of the various shopping bags cutting into his skin. The bags get shoved into the inside of the booth and he rests his back against the plastic cushion with a grand sigh.

 

Across from him Lena looks far more at ease and hardly winded, which is entirely unfair.

 

“How?” Hanzo asks, watching her arrange her own bags next to her in an orderly fashion. Much more organized than his own pile that is slowly sliding toward the floor. “How are you not bone tired?”

 

“You kept up pretty well! You should join me running some days, I try to run every morning and sometimes right after lunch, but an evening jog is pretty nice too--”

 

“No, no, please no thank you,” Hanzo begs, putting his hands up in defeat and making Lena laugh. “I will stick to my bow if it is all the same to you.”

 

She plucks two menus from the stand on the side of the table and hands one over. “I was in track and field in school before joining the Royal Air Force. Sprints, marathon, hurdles, you name it. Kept me in shape so I could enlist.”

 

“You must have been very good.”

 

“I won a few competitions, but it’s just secondary school. I did alright,” she shrugs. It is one of the things he likes about Lena; she is proud of her accomplishments but she is always humble about them. “I’m feeling fish and chips, how about you?”

 

“I have not heard of half these dishes,” Hanzo says, eyes scanning the menu.

 

The pub Lena brought him to feels like it could be right out of London proper, all dark polished woods and low lamplight making the atmosphere inside completely different from the bright sunny shores outside. He ends up picking out a local dish called fideos al horno that Lena insists is to die for. There are not too many people dining today, just a small group of football enthusiasts watching highlights from a game the night before. Lena mutters something unsavory about Arsenal and Hanzo shushes her, not wanting to get into a pub brawl over a sport he barely has a grasp of.

 

“We need more football fans in Overwatch,” Lena complains, folding her arms on the table in front of her. “I have no one to talk stats with other than Lúcio and all he cares about is Brazil.”

 

“You will have better luck elsewhere. Sports were never an interest of mine,” Hanzo replies, pulling his glass of water close and drinking deeply. Shopping is thirsty work.

 

“Reinhardt used to keep up with it but he lost interest after all his favorites retired. And Jesse makes an effort for championship games but I can tell it’s mostly for my benefit. Actually, I think he might like it better than American football. He couldn’t stand it when Morrison would get to watching it.”

 

“That is surprising,” he comments. McCree has always come across as so all-American, from his clothes to his speech to his optimistic stubbornness. American football slots right in with everything he has come to expect from Jesse McCree. “Are there any sports he is interested in?”

 

Lena frowns a moment, considering that. “Not really...racing, maybe. Cars, motorcycles, horses, dogs, I don’t think that really matters. I don’t know, he’s not really a sports guy. Which is kind of a shocker.”

 

“You two have known each other a long time?” Hanzo asks.

 

“Not as much as some of the others, since he was with Blackwatch,” she says, picking up a wedge of lemon to squeeze into her water. “I wasn’t a ground soldier with Overwatch very long before it dissolved. Before that I was a pilot and then I was dealing with my chronal disassociation, so there wasn’t a lot of time for socializing.” Lena stirs the water with her straw to spread the lemon juice out. “Actually, I don’t think we’d formally met until after my accident. I’d seen him around the base but he was just ‘that guy who wears the cowboy hat,’ not Jesse.”

 

He smirks. “So the hat is a constant.”

 

“I’m afraid so.” Lena giggles and takes a sip of her water, her voice turning wistful. “Yes, I remember, the first time we really talked was before I got my chronal accelerator. I was disappearing and reappearing randomly, couldn’t hold physical form...the scientists, they wanted me to stay in the lab but I don’t know how they expected me to do that when I was slipping all over the place.”

 

Hanzo remembers reading about it, the pilot Lena ‘Tracer’ Oxton being presumed dead during a malfunction of the Slipstream prototype. He has also heard the gist of the story from Mei and Winston, but never from the source herself. “It sounds terrifying.”

 

“I’d say that’s accurate,” she says, lips curving into a sardonic smile. “I don’t remember much of it, thankfully. Without the control of the accelerator, the human mind isn’t really capable of processing such rapid time shifts. Most of it is a blur. Anyway,” Lena waves that off to get on with the story. “This one time I manifested in the hallway outside the laundry room of all places. Or some version of me, anyway. Jesse says I was all translucent.”

 

“He was there, too?”

 

“It was like four in the morning. He had just come back from a mission and was dropping off his gear for washing,” she recalls. “When he came out of the laundry room I was standing there, and he--” Lena begins to snicker, “He screamed like a banshee when he saw me.”

 

The thought tickles something in Hanzo too, and he laughs along with her. “I cannot imagine my reaction would be much different,” he admits.

 

“Yes, well, after the shock and me explaining who I was, he calmed down well enough. There wasn’t much point in him rushing to wake the scientists since by the time they got to me I’d be long gone anyway. So he just sat down in the hall with me and kept me company.” Lena’s eyes go a little distant at the memory. “I remember being able to tell he was so tired, who knows how long he’d been on mission, but he just smiled that big dumb smile of his and asked if he could fill me in on anything. Turns out I’d missed them restarting Doctor Who. He told me the plot of every episode I’d missed until I blinked out of existence.”

 

“That sounds like McCree,” Hanzo says.

 

“A sweetheart, that one,” she replies. “Barmy that he ended up in Blackwatch, of all places. Most of that lot ended up on trial or on the run after Switzerland.”

 

“Yes, that was very...barmy,” he agrees. All at once it hits Hanzo that Lena knows. All the details that are left out of official reports, all the stories that the agents of old sidestep, all the questions that McCree carefully avoids, they are all answerable. It is just a matter of asking the right source. And Lena seems forthcoming. “I still do not understand why he was made a Blackwatch agent and not a regular mission operative.”

 

“Because Overwatch didn’t want him,” Lena says.

 

Hanzo blinks at her owlishly. “What?”

 

“Yeah, apparently he was only ever offered the chance to join Blackwatch. A direct offer from Gabriel Reyes himself. Even after years of service he was never offered a chance to transfer out of covert ops.”

 

“That does not make any sense,” Hanzo says, frowning. “He more than earned it. Why?”

 

“Probably because the offer would have had to come from Morrison. He didn’t care much for Jesse,” she says, shaking her head.

 

The waiter comes by then with their food then and Hanzo does his best to hold his tongue while everything is being divvied out. The pasta dish that is placed in front of him is a weird hodgepodge of ingredients that he is a little intimidated by, but his mind is more interested in where the conversation was headed. As soon as the waiter is back out of earshot Hanzo says, “I have heard he could be a bit wild, but that does not seem like a valid reason for--”

 

“Oh, Morrison hated McCree on sight,” Lena cuts in, grabbing the small bottle of malt vinegar next to the napkins and dousing her fish with it. “He wanted Jesse thrown in jail for life.”

 

“What?!” Hanzo can hardly believe what he is hearing. “But was he not underage?”

 

“Didn’t matter. Morrison was pretty harsh back then, when it came to the law. Or so I’m told, anyway. He loosened up some by the time I came around but he was still kind of an arse. Honestly, he had a lot on his plate so I wasn’t surprised he was a bit stiff, but yeah. I’m told he thought Jesse was a bit too dodgy and shouldn’t be trusted, but Reyes stood up for him. He’s the one that trained Jesse to begin with.” She takes a bite of one of the chips on her plate. “Morrison came around eventually on Jesse, but by then the damage was done.”

 

Hanzo is not sure how to take all that. No wonder McCree did not run and greet the ex-Commander with open arms. “Even after all that, his reaction to seeing Morrison alive was more violent than I expected.”

 

There is a pause as Lena takes another bite and chews slowly, giving him a long look while she thinks. “That, I’m not sure about either. It has something to do with what happened in Zürich, but I couldn’t tell you what,” she says finally, frowning at how unhelpful her own answer is. The disappointment must show on his face because she adds, “Whatever it is, he isn’t telling me.”

 

“You two seemed close,” he says, hoping he is not stepping out of bounds.

 

Lena shrugs. “We’re friends, but I wouldn’t say we were ever close. Not like he is with some of the others.” She waves her fork at Hanzo. “Genji and Angela, they know.”

 

That throws an interesting new twist into the problem, one that Hanzo is not prepared to tackle. “Genji and--what do you mean, they know? Know what?”

 

“Okay, so, as far as I can tell,” she says, leaning in close to tell the story, “Jesse left Blackwatch about a year before Overwatch fell. I’m not sure how sudden it was for the people in Blackwatch, but it came as a pretty big surprise to the rest of us. I mean, maybe in retrospect we should have known? He wasn’t really happy anymore, but he had always seemed so loyal to the organization. But, I guess Jesse’s also pretty good at putting on a happy face. It just seemed awful sudden. Like, he turned in his resignation and two days later his room was empty and he was in the wind. Some people didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye, and he didn’t say where he was going. And nobody really knew why.”

 

“He did not tell anyone why he left?”

 

“I doubt Reyes would have let him go without an explanation, but if he knew he wasn’t telling us. You should eat,” she adds, pointing at his food. Hanzo realizes he has barely had two bites and scoops up a forkful while Lena continues. “Anyway, after he left life went on, you know. We had missions, we had work to do, there wasn’t time to really think about why he left. Then everything went balls-up, Overwatch turned on itself, and Reyes and Morrison supposedly killed each other and leveled the Zürich headquarters.”

 

Lena takes another drink from her glass before lowering her voice to just above a whisper. Not that anyone in the pub is giving them a second glance, but she must think it is important enough to warrant a volume change. “Something happened, though, between Jesse leaving and Overwatch falling. I don’t know what. Whatever it was changed him. He was still Jesse but a lot more careful about people. Like he had to reevaluate everyone he used to trust. He got a lot more private about things.”

 

Hanzo frowns. This has all been enlightening but it really is not much to go on, especially since other than these specific questions McCree has always acted like an open book. Does he really act so much different toward the others than he did in the past? Another question that has been burning in his mind comes to the forefront. “How did McCree lose his arm?”

 

She drums the fingers of her free hand along the table. “That’s the thing that Genji and Angela knows,” she says. “He lost it some time after he left Blackwatch, but before I saw him again. And before you ask, I’ve already tried to get it out of Angela but she just cites doctor-patient confidentiality. And Genji is like a steel trap when it comes to Jesse, so there’s no way I’m getting it out of him. I mean as close as they are they could be--”

 

Lena nearly chokes stopping the word coming out of her mouth, but the meaning is quite clear to Hanzo. He finishes for her. “Like brothers,” he says carefully neutral.

 

“Oh God, Hanzo, I didn’t mean it like that! Gosh, way to drop a clanger--please, that was just rubbish of me, and now you look right gutted! Please, I’m so sorry, forgive me? If you need to give me a good ear-bashing, I’ll take it, you have every right after I mucked this up--”

 

“Stop, stop!” Hanzo cuts in, hardly able to stay mad at her. “Stop, I can barely understand a word you are saying!”

 

Lena bites her lip and her shoulders bounce once in a helpless shrug. “I am sorry,” she tries. “I feel like a right tosser.”

 

“It is...fine,” he replies, stabbing his pasta in disappointment and taking another sullen bite. “You meant no harm. And it is good that Genji has a friend he can closely rely on.” Even if the thought of the two of them so close makes him chaffe, and not for any good reason, either. It actually is a good thing Genji has a close friend in McCree, and vice versa. People need someone to rely on, someone who will have their back. Hanzo knows the feeling is just plain jealousy, no two ways about it, but he is not sure which one of them he is more jealous of or where exactly that leaves him in the grand scheme of things. And to make matters worse, of all the possible people to go through to get answers on McCree’s past, Genji would present the most trying and painful option. He glances up at Lena to find her still looking ready for reproach. “I am not mad,” he insists. “But I think McCree’s arm will remain a mystery.”

 

She lets out a slow breath since Hanzo seems genuinely okay despite her faux pas. “He might just tell you if you ask,” Lena suggests.

 

“Who, Genji or McCree?”

 

“Either. Both.”

 

“It would be rude to just outright ask him,” Hanzo replies. “If McCree has not told his close friends, I doubt he will tell me.” He does not even address why speaking to Genji about it would be a horrible idea.

 

“You never know. He might be more willing to talk to someone who wasn’t involved with that whole mess.”

 

“Maybe,” Hanzo allows, letting out a small sigh. “Until then, I will have to be content with our current arrangement of one-upping each other at the firing range.”

 

Lena smiles. If Hanzo is cracking jokes at his own expense, he must not be too angry. “And watching movies. I can’t believe you can sit through some of those.”

 

“So far it has all been quality cinema,” he states, smiling. “He is right, none of you have any taste--”

 

She blows him a raspberry and gives his prosthetic a kick under the table. “Aw, sod off!” She laughs, taking another bite of her cod. Chewing slowly, she lets Hanzo get back to his own food before speaking again. “You know, you two get along rather well.”

 

“McCree is surprisingly easy get along with.”

 

“You seem rather close already.”

 

Hanzo’s fork stills over his plate, Lena’s tone sinking in, and he glances up at her. The pilot is holding her fork pressed to her bottom lip and is looking at him thoughtfully. Knowingly. Hanzo mixes the pasta around on his plate. “We have a lot in common,” he says to his food.

 

Lena hums and goes back to eating, and Hanzo thinks that is the end of it. He should have known better. “Hana mentioned she ran into you two the other night.” When she gets nothing but an expectant silence, she adds, “She was a little worried, since you seemed a bit out of sorts, but that Jesse must have took good care of you since you were wrapped up in his serape.”

 

The light may be low in the pub but Hanzo knows it is not dim enough to hide the flush that rises to the surface. “It was nothing. I was not having a good evening and McCree kept me company. That’s all.”

 

“Of course. Awful nice of him, that,” she replies. She looks like she is fighting back her humor. “Though, if that wasn’t all--if it wasn’t nothing, you should know that there’s nothing wrong with that. If that wasn’t all, it would be good for you to know that he hasn’t taken to someone quite as fast as you in as long as I can remember. And, if that wasn’t all, and he gets you all collywobbles, well...that would just be tip-top, wouldn’t it?” Lena lifts her glass again and smirks behind the rim. “For future reference.”

 

Now he is outright staring in mild shock. Is he that transparent? What she is suggesting is a thought that Hanzo has barely allowed himself to entertain, much less consider seriously, and yet here she is bringing it into casual conversation in the most round-about bold statement she could. She even has the audacity to wink at him. It knocks a laugh out of him before he knows it, suddenly feeling ridiculously exposed in the most freeing way. “I’ll keep that in mind,” he says, going back to his food and taking a big mouthful.

 

“Good.” Lena looks quite pleased with herself. Hanzo imagines she might even give herself a pat on the back for a job well done. “And, not that you’d be interested, but just in case you need the information, I think he’d like the gray one best,” she adds, gesturing to one of the bags at Hanzo’s side.

 

“The gray one?” he confirms, nodding. “Good to know. Thank you.”

 

“You’re welcome,” she titters, pulling out her phone to check the time.

 

“We should do this more often,” he suggests.

 

“That’d make me a right giddy kipper! We can--wait--Hanzo! Hanzo, come back! Come on, Hanzo, it’s bloody English!”

 

After Hanzo returns to the table and they finish their meal, the two gather their things and begin the trek back to the warehouse. The truck should be well stocked and waiting by this point, and even though Hanzo considers himself to be in excellent shape there is only so much shopping one can take.

 

Or, at least that is his thought until something in the window of the store they are passing catches his eye and he stops mid-stride.

 

Lena walks about six steps before realizing Hanzo is no longer at her side and turns to find him staring into a store. “Hanzo? What is it?”


She can see the beginnings of a smirk creep up his lips as Hanzo disappears inside, and she hastens to follow.

 

---

 

Genji bought a bag of jocote.

 

Or more accurately, he bought three bags of jocote. Two to take back to Gibraltar and one for eating while on the mission. So fifteen pounds total and as convinced as McCree is that Genji is going to waste half of it, Genji seems equally convinced to prove him wrong. The ninja has been carrying one of the sacks around like a baby on his hip ever since he made Jesse go in and buy it for him. Turns out that the youngest Shimada can easily scale a three story building with a sack of fruit at his side, and he has been tearing through them at an alarming rate.

 

“Don’t you think you should slow down? You’re goin’ to get sick to your stomach,” Jesse says in the late afternoon of day three.

 

“They are too good,” Genji sighs, taking a bite out of another jocote after carefully slicing it open with his wakizashi. He has his back to the low ledge they are hiding behind, lounging with one leg crossed over the other bent knee, his foot bouncing in the air to a silent rhythm.

 

After careful monitoring they have narrowed the safe house location down to two adjacent abandoned houses on the east end of the street. Two stories each, the adobe is cracking in the corners and the shallow sloping roofs are both missing shingles. They have fallen into disrepair, but suspiciously none of the windows are cracked or shattered. The ones on the bottom level do not even have the clouded aged spots that most of the other windows on the street share. Despite the obvious tell, there has not been any movement or activity since they started monitoring the houses. Genji is fairly certain no one is using the buildings now, but they are here for five days. May as well be sure.

 

Jesse is tucked behind the edge of a broken satellite dish so he can use the fiberglass as cover. His metal arm serves as a comfortable brace to lean on the ledge with, though he is annoyed that he will be cleaning crusty white bird droppings off his prosthetic when they get back to the apartment. He has been alternating between watching the street and peering through a pair of binoculars at the target houses for the better part of an hour. “Angela’s going to need to fit you with new armor, if you’re goin’ to blow up fat as a tick,” Jesse teases.

 

Genji ignores that in favor of offering Jesse a slice. “You want some?”

 

“...yeah, hand it over,” he says, reaching out and taking the sweet fruit. “You know Winson’s going to have a fit if you bring all that fruit back to the base. Be screamin’ about fruit flies and bacteria and proper procedures.”

 

“I will bribe him with peanut butter,” Genji reasons, smirking. He has had his faceplate off more often than not during their down time this mission, enjoying the feel of the sun on his face without fear of scrutiny. It taxes his lungs, and when he reattaches the mask he feels like he is coming up from a long dive deep in the ocean, but it is worth it.

 

“Do that too many times it will lose its charm,” Jesse warns.

 

“No way. There is no living thing that loves peanut butter more.” Genji punctuates that with another bite to the fruit in his hand. The juices run down his fingers and he grunts in annoyance. He will need to clean between the seams again. Licking at taste from the metal, he asks, “Status report, Agent McCree?”

 

“Agent McCree here. Situation boring,” he drawls back, adjusting the focus on the binoculars unnecessarily. There has not been a single movement across the street since they started. Not even a bird flutter. “Can confirm that the left house is still painted an awful yellow. There’s a guy walking on the sidewalk down by the duplex wearing a belt and suspenders. Now how can you trust a man that wears both a belt and suspenders? Man can’t even trust his own pants...”

 

Genji hums noncommittally and takes another bite, tuning Jesse out for the most part. Jesse likes to people watch, and usually Genji indulges and plays along but he has been rather quiet today. There is a lull of silence and Jesse lets his mind wander where it may, eventually settling on the lyrics of a song that he has had stuck in his head off and on for a few weeks now. He nearly starts humming it when Genji says with far too much casualness in his voice, “So. I have been meaning to ask.”

 

“Ask?”

 

“About you and my brother.”

 

Inside, the song and all other thoughts come screeching to a halt like Genji laid on the breaks of a locomotive. On the outside, the only tell Jesse gives off is the fact that he does not immediately turn toward Genji confused and instead he keeps staring through the binoculars. His voice at least sounds appropriately perplexed. “What about him?”

 

“I think you know.”

 

“Don’t know what you mean, partner,” Jesse says, shaking his head. He is not going to look over there. He is not.

 

But he can feel Genji’s gaze on him and sense out of his periphery that the foot has stopped bouncing. “So you are saying you and my brother are not fucking?”

 

Jesse’s elbow jerks against the ledge and the layer of dried filth gives away with a jarring crunch noise, making his whole body jolt to catch himself in his shock at the question. “Christ! Genji!” he hisses at the other man, not stupid enough to shout no matter how out-of-nowhere this is coming from. And Genji has the audacity to giggle in amusement at Jesse’s incredulous look. “No! No, we are not--where did you even get the idea that we--?”

 

“You are so easy sometimes!” Genji laughs, foot resuming its happy little bounce. “Could you act any more guilty if you tried?”

 

“I’d have to be guilty of somethin’ to be actin’ guilty,” Jesse grumbles, readjusting his position so he can still watch the target. It is just so like Genji to corner him about this when he has no escape. Little bastard.

 

Genji tosses the remains of the jocote across the roof for the birds to peck at, then picks out another from the bag. “I know you two are not together. What I do not know is why.”

 

Looking back out across the street seems like the best way to avoid Genji’s knowing smile, so Jesse focuses on the crooked gutter that runs up the side of the yellow house. “Could it be that he just ain’t interested?”

 

“Are you saying you are interested?” Genji counters.

 

“That ain’t what I’m sayin’--don’t put words in my mouth!” This conversation is rapidly getting out of control. “Hey, I’ve been doin’ my best to be friendly. You’re the one that wanted him to feel welcome, and that’s what I’ve done. That’s all it is, just bein’ friendly.”

 

“Oh, I am sure you want to get very friendly,” Genji says, dragging out the last word lewdly. He retrieves his wakizashi to peel the new fruit, and the blade’s presence is the only reason Jesse doesn’t kick the fruit right out of his hand just to spite him.

 

“Ain’t you bein’ awful presumptuous?” Jesse fiddles with the binoculars’ settings again just to have something to do with his hands. The urge to light up is strong but they cannot risk the smoke being visible down on the street. “You don’t know nothin’ about my preferences. Of all the things for you to drum up--”

 

“You called him darlin’ ,” Genji states, and Jesse’s mouth snaps shut with an audible clack, cheeks going absolutely scarlet. The cyborg takes the opening to press. “You called him darlin’ the other day when you apologized for bumping into him leaving the conference room. And again when you two were bickering about coffee the other morning. And I am sure another dozen times that I was not there for. The only people you ever call darlin’ are people you are interested in romantically. Not with people you just want a fling with--only people you want to see long-term.” Met with only embarrassed silence, Genji cuts a wedge out of the jocote and holds it on the blade up to his mouth. “But I can go on if you need more.”

 

“I’d really rather you didn’t,” Jesse says in defeat, covering his burning face with his flesh hand. His companion chuckles again around the bite of fruit, and yeah, he could throw himself off the roof to hide his humiliation, but throwing Genji off would be more satisfying. Unfortunately they have both survived worse drops than this.

 

Next to him, Genji shifts up to a sitting position and sits cross-legged facing him, the sack of fruit set aside and his current jocote palmed in one hand. “There were other things, but it is obvious if anyone gives you a second glance. I just know where to look.”

 

“Could you not?” The cowboy pinches the bridge of his nose for a moment before setting the binoculars down on the ledge and leaning back to rest against the satellite dish with a resigned sigh. “What do you want me to say? Yes, okay, he’s attractive. I’d have to be blind not to notice.”

 

“You are not that shallow. There is more to this than looks.”

 

Jesse shoots Genji a narrow-eyed look, but it is a soft jab at best so he lets it slide. His prosthetic comes up to scratch through his beard, mind going to the archer. “Yeah,” he agrees. “Alright, yeah, maybe.” Genji looks up at Jesse expectantly, and he frowns. “What, I ain’t goin’ to make a list for you.”

 

The ninja wrinkles his scarred nose at the thought. “Ew, no, I do not need to hear it, thank you,” he says, resuming cutting the fruit in his hand into pieces. “But I do want to know why you are not doing something about this. It is not like you to move slow.”

 

Jesse crosses his arms over his chest defensively. “Look,” he says, already tired of this conversation. “I ain’t goin’ to make any moves on Hanzo, a’ight?”

 

Genji actually looks stricken by that. “What? Why not?”

 

“What do you mean, ‘why not?’ Are you sayin’ you want me to?”

 

“I am saying,” he stresses, “that you should do what you want. You want to, I can tell, so why do you hesitate?”

 

“There are more than enough reasons for me to keep my distance,” Jesse says, really wishing that Genji would just drop it. But he can already see that Genji is going to be like a dog with a bone. “Fraternizing with another agent hasn’t exactly worked out well in the past, or did you forget?”

 

“You and Hanzo do not strike me as the type to argue over who gets to be Commander of Overwatch,” Genji replies. “And they would have had their fallout whether or not they were lovers, which is speculation--”

 

Jesse scoffs at the mere notion. “Only if you didn’t know Gabe. There’s no way they weren’t together at some point.”

 

Genji puts a hand up to stop any more of that talk. “Whatever, the point is, you’re not Reyes or Morrison, and neither is Hanzo. You cannot use their relationship as an excuse.”

 

“It still doesn’t make it a good idea. We’re risking our lives every time we go out on a mission, gettin’ shot at and blown up. Twice the chance of one of us not comin’ back alive, or us compromisin’ the mission because we’d be concerned about each other. Ain’t that why they don’t let brothers serve together?”

 

“For one, we could just as easily die tripping down the stairs or choking on our breakfast,” Genji says, holding up the jocote like it is empirical evidence. “It does not matter who we see romantically, there is always the chance we will not come back. If anything, another agent would understand the hardships better than a civilian. Two, you treat all your teammates like they are family. You do not let your relationships threaten the lives of anyone else. You, Jesse McCree, do not believe in leaving anyone behind.”

 

Jesse considers that as Genji takes another bite of his fruit. “You think too highly of me, Genji.”

 

“No, I do not. I can insult you if it makes you feel better, here: you are a horrible dancer. Simply atrocious.”

 

“Dick.” Jesse sighs again and tugs absently at the serape around his throat, looking around blankly at the sparse roof while he gathers his thoughts. “It’s not...he isn’t...you guys are goin’ through alot, right now, Genj.”

 

His companion rolls his head back to look at the sky imploringly. “Jesse,” he whines. “Come on.”

 

“No, this is important. He’s real messed up about things, and he’s got enough to work through without addin’ some dumb cowboy tryin’ to talk him up and makin’ things more complicated. I can’t do that to him.”

 

Genji’s eyes soften even as his crooked lips tilt into a smile. “You really are gone on him,” he says. Jesse huffs and looks away again, prompting Genji to roll to his knees and stealthily move to sit next to Jesse on the rim of the satellite dish. It is a tight fit and their shoulders press together, Genji linking their arms so they are more comfortable. A liberty they have earned with each other over years of friendship. They sit together in companionable silence for a few moments before Genji breaches it. “What do you mean, he is messed up? Has he talked about it with you?”

 

“Yeah,” Jesse replies gently, echoes of Hanzo’s desperate sobs ringing in his ears. “I ain’t goin’ to go into details, I don’t--that ain’t for me to tell. But there’s a lot of guilt there, and he wants to fix things so badly, Genji. He misses you somethin’ awful.”

 

If Jesse did not look over at that moment, he might have missed the way Genji’s eyes turn watery before he blinks rapidly and fixates on Jesse’s boots next to his own metallic feet. “I miss him, too.”

 

“I wish I could help.”

 

“You already are,” Genji says, squeezing Jesse’s arm with his own. “More than you realize.”

 

“Still. Hate seein’ you two hurtin’ like this.”

 

Genji drums his fingers along the dull bone-white ridges of the stylized skull on McCree’s prosthetic. “Hanzo and I...we have a long way to go. But we will get there. And in the meantime, you are still one of my closest friends, and you and he are obviously growing closer. It could be a very good thing.”

 

“Or he could just want a friend and not be interested, like I said,” Jesse counters.

 

“I...do not think so?”

 

“You’re not sure?”

 

The cyborg presses his lips into a thin line, irritated at himself. “I am afraid I no longer know Hanzo well enough to predict his preferences when it comes to romance. Even as a young man he was very private on such things.”

 

“Great,” Jesse grumbles, stealing the jocote out of Genji’s hand and taking a huge bite right out of the center.

 

“For what it is worth, I think he would be a fool to turn you down,” Genji says encouragingly. “He at least finds you interesting enough to spend entire evenings with you holed up watching your shit movies--”

 

“You wouldn’t know a good movie if it bit you.”

 

“--and I do know him well enough to know he does not sit idle doing something he does not enjoy. You should ask him out. Or, I do not know, whatever it is you do when you want to pursue someone. Do not make any drunken confessions, that is just sad.”

 

“Nah. Believe it or not, I have more class than that,” Jesse replies.

 

“At least think about it. You have my blessings, if that helps.”

 

Jesse glares and takes another bite of the fruit just to be contrary. “I ain’t never askin’ your permission to see Hanzo. He’s a grown-ass man, he can make his own decisions.”

 

“I just do not want you two to use me as an excuse to not find happiness,” Genji states, reaching out to try and steal the fruit back but Jesse holds it out of his reach. “You guys would be cute together. I bet it would be sickeningly sweet.” He finally snags the jocote after climbing halfway across Jesse’s lap.

 

“About as sick as you’re goin’ to be if you eat any more of those things.”

 

“But it is worth a shot, right?”

 

“I don’t really fancy an arrow up the ass if he’s goin’ to be easily offended.”

 

“Maybe not an arrow, but something else up your--”

“Oh, God, shut up, you are such a little brother!” Jesse shoves Genji off him and the ninja rolls backwards with the motion until he’s sitting up again on the roof, snickering at his own joke. His good humor spreads, though, and Jesse finds himself laughing at the ridiculous pickle he has found himself in. “I’ll think about it, a’ight? Just don’t go pushin’ anything. If I decide to say something, it will be on my own time.”

 

“I make no promises,” Genji smirks one last time before picking up the faceplate of his mask. With a well-practiced movement it is secured in place and Jesse hears the static hiss of Genji’s oxygen systems kicking on. The cyborg once told Jesse that those first few breaths after being without his mask were almost euphoric, a buzz of pleasure that left him light-headed. After a minute of careful breaths he seems to be back to his old self. “I think I am going to head back to the apartment and rest before tonight. Do you want me to bring you dinner when we switch?”

 

“Nah, I’ll grab something on the way down later. Stay out of sight,” he reminds unnecessarily, picking up his binoculars and shifting back into position by the ledge. Sure enough, the houses across the street look exactly the same as before with just a slight lighting change.

 

Genji picks up the dwindling sack of fruit and cradles it lovingly. “I’ll be back, then. Try not to get distracted, thinking of dark haired men with tattoos and impeccable aim…”

 

Jesse reaches out quick as a flash and yanks on the bottom of the burlap bag, ripping the seam right along the bottom. The remaining fruit spills out onto the decrepit roof to roll around their feet in satisfying wobbly, uneven circles.

 

“No! Not my jocote!”

 

---

 

“Slow down, slow down, I’m going to trip!”

 

“Sorry, it is--ah--I am trying not to--”

 

“No no no, don’t--ow! Too low!”

 

“I am lifting as high as I can!”

 

“It’s too heavy! I’m going to drop it!”

 

“We have to get it up there--”

 

“Just a few more feet, hold on--keep going keep going keep going! And...okay, set it down!”

 

Hanzo and Lena drop the couch as soon as they get to the top of the ramp, both leaning on the opposite arms to catch their breath and rest their muscles. If the shopping trip had not tired Hanzo out, carrying this thing up from the garage certainly will. “Perhaps we should take a five minute break,” he pants.

 

“Two minutes,” she argues, standing up straight again to stretch her arms over her head. Something in her spine cracks and she lets out a satisfied groan. “If we stop now we’ll get stiff and it will take forever to get it up there.”

 

“My arm feels like it is going to come out of its socket,” he complains, rotating his shoulder to work the kinks out. Hopefully it will be a slow few days as far as missions go, because this is going to wreck his power drawing his bow. “If only we could have had it delivered.”

 

“Yeah, well, secret facility and all that,” Lena sighs, doing a quick toe-touch before using the couch arm for balance to do a series of standing quad stretches. “What is in this thing, bags of bricks?”

 

“It has a solid maple frame,” Hanzo says, patting the arm under his hand. “Good quality. Strong.”

 

“Yeah, and why would you need furniture that strong, Hanzo?” she asks, wide smirk replacing her exhausted frown. “Planning on putting it to use?”

 

He glares at her before crouching down to grip the couch from the base. At least the flush on his face can be attributed to exertion. “Less talking, more lifting.”

 

Hanzo has not made such a large impulsive purchase since he left Hanamura, unless you count his specialty arrows which he does not since those are for work. He certainly would have never thought about buying something quite like this. When Lena realized what exactly Hanzo was considering she had called it a horrible eyesore but also absolutely perfect for what he had in mind. That might be why she only gave up token arguments for finding something a little less atrocious. In the end, Hanzo had made up his mind the moment his eyes fell on the piece of furniture.

 

A deceptive monster of a couch, the weight is indeed from the heavy frame and not from sheer bulk. The padding and cushions look normal sized but proved to be soft and comforting without completely swallowing Hanzo and Lena when they sat down to test it out. Hanzo could easily imagine curling up on it to watch a good movie with plenty of room for a companion at his side.

 

The selling point was the pattern. Sure, the densely woven cotton would not be easy to clean, something he would probably regret in a place like the Watchpoint where stains from blood are just as common as stains from food. But if any group of people have learned how to get the remnants of blood out of fabrics it is Overwatch agents. The pattern more than makes up for it. Geometric and southwestern, the design could be taken straight from one of McCree’s serapes.  Angled lines and triangle wedges in tawny cream, burnt orange, and a red the color of sangria criss-cross through the fabric, with just a few accent threads in a lovely contrasting turquoise on a backdrop of deep rich chocolate-mahogany.

 

It is completely unlike anything Hanzo would ever remotely consider buying, and yet there is no arguing the fact that here it is making its way slowly but surely up the ramps of the Watchpoint. Getting it this far had been more than a chore what with getting the truck to the furniture shop, making room for it in the truck, then manhandling it out of the truck without dropping it. Which brings them to the last major obstacle in their path.

 

“There’s no way,” Lena says, motioning toward the stairs leading from the lower bowels of the Watchpoint to the mid-levels and crew quarters.

 

“We have to; the couch is too long for the elevator.”

 

“It’s too steep and the turn’s too narrow! We’ll end up breaking it!”

 

“The other furniture had to be brought in somehow,” he points out.

 

Lena sighs, hands settling on her hips. “I think most of that came in boxes and was put together on-site. It’s all allen and hex wrenches, unless Torbjörn put it together. If people brought in fancier furniture, I wasn’t here for it.”

 

“We can figure it out. It is just a couch, we can handle this.” Hanzo glares up at the stairwell with a grim determination. “It is simple geometry.”

 

Which is how Reinhardt finds them twenty minutes later.

 

“Turn it sharper!”

 

“I am turning as much as I can, there is nowhere to go!”

 

“We need, like, two centimeters!”

 

“If I move it any closer I am going to rip the fabric. I have my fingers there to keep it safe--”

 

“Don’t put your fingers there, you’re going to break them!”

 

“Alright, try one more time. Ready?”

 

“Yeah, lift on three. One, two, three--”

 

“Ah!”

 

“Hanzo?!”

 

“Kuso!”

 

“Did I hurt you?”

 

“I am fine! Just keep going!”

 

“It’s stuck!”

 

“Pull it harder!”

 

“I’m trying! No--no, just--come on, tease it, tease it!”

 

“I am not sure what you think I am ‘teasing’ but I am shoving as hard as I can!”

 

The deep raspy laugh comes from behind them and echoes up the concrete stairwell. Lena and Hanzo both freeze with the couch wedged at one of the corners, Hanzo having to twist his head around to see the Crusader. Reinhardt has his massive arms crossed over his equally broad chest and looks to have been watching them for a while. “Are you two having some trouble?”

 

“Reinhardt, buddy, pal,” Lena coos from further up the stairs, turning up her thousand watt smile and leaning over the couch a bit. It makes Hanzo grunt under the extra pressure. “Just the set of muscles I was hoping to see!”

 

“You seek out my precision German engineering, ja?” he asks, laughing and walking forward to get a better look at the predicament they have found themselves in. “This will not work.”

 

“It will work,” Hanzo insists, moving as if to talk with his hands before realizing he would most likely drop the couch if he does. “If we could just get it more vertical, it would be at an angle short enough to squeeze around the corner. Then at the top if we lift it over the railing then it would fit through the door easily. We are just…”

 

“...not strong enough! Do not fear, this is exactly what they keep this old man around for!”

 

“Reinhardt, you know that is not true,” Lena protests with a laugh. “You also reach things off high shelves!”

 

“Oh! So cruel, you are! Now, you hold on and let Hanzo come help take your end. I will get this one.” Reinhardt easily takes the weight from Hanzo’s hands and lets the archer slip past him back down the stairs. With a running leap Hanzo quickly and nimbly scales the railing to join Lena. Between the two of them lifting their end is much easier, so easy that Hanzo is fairly sure Reinhardt could just lift the whole couch on his own. Which is proven true moments later when Reinhardt says, “Let me show you how it’s done!”

 

They may as well not even be there, and after a little guidance helping Reinhardt get past the narrow entryway Hanzo finds himself trailing Reinhardt with the couch firmly in his arms. Hanzo only has to help once they get close to their destination, Lena blinking ahead to make sure no one is blocking the hallway. The couch gets set down right outside the spare breakroom.

 

“What should we do with the old couch?” Lena asks, circling around the piece of furniture in question and giving the gouge in the arm a curious prod.

 

“It is disgusting. I will get rid of it,” Reinhardt replies, looking at it with disdain. “I am surprised it does not have lice or bedbugs.”

 

“Bedbugs?!” Lena cries, jerking her hand away from it at the same time Hanzo shouts, “Lice?!” Hanzo is remembering spending several hours wrapped up on this couch, and McCree swore it was perfectly clean but what if he was wrong?

 

Their companion chuckles again, coming in the room and shoving the couch easily toward the exit. “Do not worry my friends, it is harmless joke. Winston is very thorough about such things. He would not allow parasites in the Watchpoint.”

 

Hanzo and Lena glance at each other, each scratching at random patches of skin from phantom sensations. He does have a point. All that fur Winston has to worry about means the gorilla is quite fastidious when it comes to pests. The Christmas Flea Incident of 2065 is something that all the new Overwatch agents have already heard of in detail, as both a story of great mirth and also a dire warning about thoroughly checking your incoming mail. Winston still has a deep-seated hatred for holiday sweaters.

 

The offending couch is disposed of easily and after a quick clean-up of the floor where it was sitting the new couch is slotted right in place. It is not a perfect fit with the room, but that is less because of the couch and more because the room is hardly cohesive in style. “Well,” Hanzo says at last, surveying the piece of furniture in its new home. “It is a start.”

 

“Are you thinking of fixing this room up? It is a cozy little place,” Reinhardt comments, looking around. There is actually one of his old propaganda posters on the back wall that catches his eye.

 

“He and McCree are making it into a movie room,” Lena sing-songs, wide grin back on her face. Much to Hanzo’s dismay she and Reinhardt share a knowing look.

 

“Splendid! I will not have to fight with Jesse for the television and I can watch my Hasselhoff in peace!” Reinhardt gives Hanzo a hard pat to the back and nods toward the couch. “You just wait, I’m sure when he returns he will be happy to help with the rest of it.”

 

“They’ll be back in a few days,” Lena says shaking out the throw that had been on the back of the old couch then folding it to lay on the new one. The patterns clash horribly. “Not exactly the style I thought you’d go for, Shimada.”

 

Hanzo crosses his arms and keeps his head held high, opening his mouth to say what he is not sure, but Reinhardt saves him from anything embarrassing. “Jesse will love it,” the giant of a man says, amused. Hanzo is not sure when his and McCree’s friendship--and that is all it is, his own vague feelings of anything else being just that--became so interesting to everyone else.

 

“Yes, well,” he reasons, “he has been very considerate since I joined, it seemed right to offer something of thanks. And it is very...him.”

 

“He’ll be gobsmacked,” Lena assures him, linking her arm with Reinhardt’s. “Well, I’m knackered. Been a long day already and I need to make sure the rest of the supplies get unloaded by a big strong man.”

 

“My lady, I am at your service,” he says with a hearty laugh.

 

“Same time next month, Hanzo?” Lena asks. “Without the couch shopping?”

 

“I look forward to it,” Hanzo smiles, giving a small bow of thanks before they leave him to his own devices. Turning back to the couch, he runs his hands over the supple fabric before letting his tiredness drag him down onto the cushions. Laying back, he looks up at the dull white ceiling and wonders what has gotten into him.

 

McCree is going to laugh at him. Or think he has gone insane. Most likely both. But it seemed like such a good idea--no, it was a stupid idea, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. And maybe McCree will appreciate the gesture. The couch is certainly a hundred times more comfortable than its predecessor, and he will be grateful for that if nothing else. Growing drowsy just being in a reclining position, Hanzo lets himself entertain what McCree’s expression will be when he sees it. Next movie night will be good. He just wishes it could happen sooner.

 

He is moments from drifting into a lovely afternoon nap when a thought strikes him, eyes popping open. The thought is just as wild and impulsive as the couch.

 

Maybe he is picking up some bad habits from McCree.

 

---

 

The apartment Genji and McCree rent while on stakeout is in an unassuming building that is just as run-down and neglected as the rest of the neighborhood. Once upon a time the wood siding was painted a bright white and the decorative shutters a brilliant cobalt, but time and the weather have stripped most of it off leaving nothing but paint flakes and stained wood. The outer stairs that lead to the third floor creak uncomfortably loud and ominous with each step, which is precisely why they chose to rent there in the first place. When other people are moving on the same floor you can feel the wood beneath your feet shift with the weight. It is a better alarm system than half the ones you can buy on the market.

 

It is still better than any home McCree recalls growing up. He would have killed for this sort of luxury.

 

As is customary, he approaches the apartment door cautiously with one hand on Peacekeeper, ready for an ambush. Thankfully nothing greets him but the comforting hum of the window unit pumping out slightly cooler air than the humidity outside. Jesse is nearly disappointed; this mission might have made him cool down as far as his temper toward Morrison, but it has also been boring as hell. At this point he would welcome a little action just to break up the monotony.

 

They only have a day and a half left, though, and Jesse is content to consider the trip a success whether or not they find anything of importance in the target house. Getting out and away from things for a little while did him good, and Genji has been a pleasure. Gave him plenty to think about, too. That little conversation was unexpected but welcome in the end and Jesse feels like a weight has been lifted from his shoulders. Not that he ever felt like he needed Genji’s permission to pursue Hanzo, but it is nice to know that if he chooses to give it a go he has Genji’s support.

 

Which means he should probably give the matter some serious thought instead of hoping it will pass or forcing himself to feel guilty about finding a teammate attractive. Or, not attractive--hell, half the agents in Overwatch could probably be models if they lived a different life. It is not just physical, by any means, but the whole package. Jesse is completely enamored by the man. Hanzo is smart as a whip with a sharp sense of humor, just the sort of acerbic wit that Jesse likes. He gives as good as he gets, keeps Jesse on his toes. Then there is his soft side that he keeps private. The fact Hanzo felt safe enough to share it with him must mean something special.

 

All that is to say nothing about his marksmanship. Really, Jesse should have known he was in trouble the moment he watched Hanzo land a perfect bullseye from a hundred meters with barely a glance. It gets him hot under the collar just thinking about it.

 

Still, Jesse is not about to rush into anything, no matter how much he likes the other man. Despite whatever reputation he may have had in his youth, his days of fast romance are long gone and have been for quite a while. Love ‘em and leave ‘em might have been fine just out of Deadlock but things were different then. He was different then. He lived every day assuming he would not make it another year, what with all those guns seemingly pointed in his direction from every side. That is a phase he is mighty glad to have grown out of. He happens to like living now, and while he may occasionally put himself in danger he is much less likely to go running through a battlefield on a whim and a laugh. The same could be said for his love life.

 

Though, he has been in quite the drought as far as that goes. He wonders when the last time Hanzo was involved with anyone. He does not seem like the type to leave a trail of broken hearts in his wake, but neither of them have ever brought it up in conversation.

 

Jesse entertains the thought of what sort of men or women (or omnics, Jesse is not one to judge) Hanzo may have courted in the past--and yes, Jesse thinks Hanzo is just the sort of man that would court someone all proper-like. He probably has standards about these things. The idea makes Jesse chuckle while he heats some of the leftover take-out from the night before and strips all the way down to his undershirt and boxers. Peacekeeper stays within easy reach as he gets settled on one of the twin beds in the single bedroom, back to the wall as he cradles his bowl against his chest.

 

There is not much in the way of entertainment, what with no television or radio, but Jesse figures once he finishes eating he can find something to occupy himself until he drops off to sleep. Maybe he can try out one of the games Hana insisted he download to his tablet. There was something about a tower and tiny people--

 

His thoughts are derailed by the insistent ringing bells of an incoming call on said tablet. Jesse balances the bowl in one hand and dives over the side of the bed to grab for it. If Genji was in trouble he would call through their communicator, unless something happened to it, but it could just as easily be Lena warning them of an incoming attack, or Winston with some new intel.

 

The name that appears on the screen when he pulls it from his bag is not any of these.

 

“McCree here,” he answers as soon as he swipes his thumb across the screen.

 

It takes a moment for the call to connect, and only when the window expands to fill the screen does Jesse realize the icon had been for a video call. The feed flickers on and Jesse sucks in a breath at the image. Hanzo is...wow.

 

The man is all angles and soft curves. Hair that is normally tied tight and high now hangs loose so the ends just brush Hanzo’s sloping shoulders, black strands curving around the his ears and the cut of his cheekbones. His eyes and mouth are relaxed from their usual guarded set and Jesse recognizes it as the same drowsy expression from the night they stayed up so late watching a double feature. But this is even better, because Hanzo looks well-rested and sleep-mused, like he just woke up. “McCree?” Hanzo asks, and Jesse can see the other man trying to make sure his own video feed is up and running before sitting back. “Can you hear me?”

 

“You’re comin’ in loud and clear, darlin’,” Jesse replies, and then mentally slaps himself. God damn it, Genji was right, he called Hanzo darlin’ without giving it a moment’s thought. He is going to have to watch himself when he is around the others. “Is everything okay? I haven’t gotten any distress calls, are we needed back on base?”

 

“No, no, nothing like that,” Hanzo says, shaking his head. “Things have been slow here.”

 

“Oh. Good.” There is a beat of silence where Jesse expects more but no explanation seems forthcoming so he says, “So...not that I ain’t pleased as punch to hear from you, but was there somethin’ you wanted?”

 

Hanzo looks away for a moment before peering back into the camera lens. “I wanted to check in on you and Genji, see if things were going well. I apologize if I am interrupting--”

 

“Ain’t interrupting nothin’ but a bowl of day-old rice and veggies,” Jesse says, plucking the bowl up again and bringing it into view so Hanzo can see. “Just got in from my shift about thirty minutes ago. Sorry you missed Genji, but if you wanted to talk with him I’m sure he’s got his communicator on.”

 

“Right.” There is that silence again, and Jesse is worried he might be missing something, or if Hanzo had just been hoping to speak directly with Genji straight away, but then why would he call Jesse’s line instead of Genji’s? Maybe he did call Genji first and he just did not answer? But then he would have just said so, right?  The Hanzo on screen does not seem to be in any hurry to hang up. Instead he asks, “How is the mission?”

 

“Good! Good. Boring,” Jesse admits, making sure his boxers are covering the important bits before propping the tablet up against the pillow and grabbing his fork. He is sure the angle is not very flattering, but he would like to get this down while it is still warm. “You don’t mind if I eat, do you?”

 

“Of course not, go ahead. I can let you go if you want.”

 

“Nah, it’s good to hear from you. Yeah, there ain’t nobody here, from what I can tell. The place is abandoned. We’re goin’ in tomorrow and searchin’ the place. Probably could have our first day here, but figured we may as well be sure.”

 

“A wise decision,” Hanzo says, nodding. “It is good to hear you are both staying safe.”

 

“Nothin’ to worry about around here ‘cept the flies. Damn if there ain’t a billion little buggers swamin’ around. Had one buzzin’ my head for near two hours earlier today.”

 

“Do you think you will find anything to merit the trip?”

 

“Depends.” Jesse shovels a few forkfuls of food while he considers that. “If it’s really Talon, then they’re usually pretty good about clean up after themselves. Sometimes you get there and everything’s scrubbed clean, but if they leave in a hurry you could get some tasty stuff. Nah, from the outside the place looks tight. I’m bankin’ on it being wiped.”

 

“You said if,” Hanzo says, curious. “Is that not why Winston sent you? Because it was Talon?”

 

“Yeah. But it don’t feel like Talon.” He taps himself center-mast with his fork. “Gut feeling.”

 

“That could just be the left-overs talking,” Hanzo intones. “At least you are eating something other than fast food.”

 

Jesse huffs a laugh, realizing immediate what Hanzo is referring to. “That was different! It was a short-notice mission and there was nothing in that town but burger joints and greasy hotdogs, what did you expect--”

 

“Between you and Miss Song I thought I was going to have a heart condition just from proximity.”

 

“Next time, you’re eatin’ those chili cheese fries. Ain’t two ways about it.”

 

“Good luck with that, cowboy,” Hanzo chuckles, pushing a hand up through his hair to keep it out of his eyes. It makes Jesse’s hands itch to trace the same path, feel if the strands are just as silken as he imagines them to be.

 

“Is that a new shirt?” Jesse asks, squinting a little. The view shifts as Hanzo holds his own tablet further away so Jesse can see, and sure enough he has never seen that one before. The gray V-neck is form-fitting, stretching over his broad shoulders to his narrow waist and only exposes just a hint of Hanzo’s collar bones. Jesse knows he would have remembered Hanzo walking around in something like that.

 

“Miss Oxton--ah, Lena--she took me shopping,” Hanzo explains. “I was worried it might be a little tight, but what do you think?”

 

“Not too tight,” Jesse says, wondering when his throat got so dry. “Suits you mighty fine.”

 

Hanzo ducks his head but Jesse catches a pleased smile on his face as the archer pushes out a thank you. “She seems to think I need more casualwear and sought to remedy that.”

 

Jesse suddenly feels quite a bit underdressed and it is only by sheer willpower he does not look down at his shirt to make sure there are no stains on it. “Get anything else?”

 

“Quite a bit,” Hanzo says. “Most of it is in the wash. Perhaps I will show you when you get back. Oh!” His face turns mischievous. “And I picked up something for you while I was out.”

 

“For me? Sug, you didn’t need to pick up nothin’ for this old dog!”

 

Hanzo shrugs that off. “I could not resist. But, you have to swear that you will not make a big deal out of it.”

 

“Well, shucks, now I’m mighty curious,” Jesse says, completely intrigued by this playful behavior from Hanzo. He does not strike Jesse as the type to pick up random presents for people. “Can I get a hint?”

 

“No. You will just have to be surprised.” Hanzo points at Jesse in the screen, attempting to take on a serious tone but Jesse can still see the hint of a smile. “Swear it, McCree.”

 

Jesse laughs and crosses his heart. “I swear. Scout’s honor, but I’m dyin’ now. It must be good.”

 

“I think you will enjoy it. You are stuck with it either way,” Hanzo adds, looking much too amused about whatever this mystery gift might be. For the first time since the mission began Jesse really wishes he was back at the Watchpoint. The light in the room is making the ebony hair shine gold along the edges, Hanzo’s skin looking so warm, Jesse wants to reach out and trace the hollow at the base of his throat.

 

“Wait,” Jesse says, frowning and checking the time in the corner of the screen. “Wait, is it--what time is it?”

 

“Ah,” Hanzo says reluctantly, glancing away. “It is early.”

 

Jesse does some quick mental math for the eight hour difference between his timezone and Hanzo’s. That golden glow is the sun rising. “It’s just about five-thirty there. What are you doin’ up and ready so early?”

 

“I was hoping to catch you before it got too late there,” Hanzo says, not quite meeting his gaze.

 

His words thrum through Jesse like a drug. Hanzo went out of his way to set an alarm and make himself presentable before the sun rose just to try and talk to him and Genji. Or, if Hanzo’s behavior is anything to go by, maybe just him. Jesse has to tell himself not to jump the gun and make assumptions but it fills him with all sorts of possibilities. “Awful considerate of you,” Jesse says, testing the waters. “You sure there ain’t nothin’ in particular you had on your mind?”

 

“Well, we had agreed to select another movie to watch,” he says.

 

“Yeah, I figured we’d plan somethin’ when I got back,” Jesse replies, not sure where this is going.

 

“We could do that. But I thought, if you were not going right to sleep, and you were not busy…” Hanzo trails off like he is hesitant to finish the sentence, and Jesse is burning with questions he does not know how to ask. Hanzo clears his throat. “I asked Athena to show me what movies you prefer, and she offered a few options. If you are not too tired.”

 

Jesse is grinning before Hanzo even finishes. “Ain’t too tired for you, sug. That sounds like a perfect way to end the day,” he says. “What’d you have in mind, Hanzo?”

 

Those strong shoulders visibly relax and Hanzo’s arms move so he can type something off-screen. “As I recall, it was your turn to choose. The title ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ caught my attention as something you would choose.”

 

“Good choice,” Jesse assures. “Give me a few minutes to get situated? How do you want to do this?”

 

“You cannot watch properly and keep the video connection on screen,” Hanzo replies. A little icon appears in the bottom corner of the screen letting Jesse know that Athena is moving a file onto his device. “If you put your communicator in we can talk with that while we watch.”

 

“Already thought of everythin’ I see. I’ll call you right back.” Jesse almost wants to argue that he would rather just watch Hanzo’s pretty face for the next two and a half hours, but he is not quite ready. Soon, maybe. He is getting there. Besides, Hanzo has put a lot of thought into this and Jesse is not about to ruin his plans.

 

He practically inhales the rest of his dinner and tosses the trash, then gets himself settled under the blankets with his back propped against the headboard and pillows. The file with the movie has already finished downloading so Jesse slips his communicator over his ear. After making sure the settings are such that Genji can easily cut in at any time if he gets in trouble, Jesse taps the right button for making an outgoing connection. “Hanzo? Come in?”

 

“That was fast,” the archer replies with silky amusement that makes a shiver dance up Jesse’s spine. Oh how he enjoys hearing Hanzo’s voice tucked right up against his ear.

 

“What can I say? I’ll come runnin’ for a good show,” he replies, tapping the program to open the movie. “Are you ready?”

 

“Almost.” Jesse can hear muffled movements over the line as Hanzo does whatever he needs before they press play.

 

“What are you doing?”

 

“Nothing important. Just wrapping up, it is cold in here today,” Hanzo insists, then changes the subject. “It is a shame that you are not here to make us popcorn. Since someone decided I am not ready for the recipe.”

 

“You’re not, but I’m considerin’ it. Little early in the day for popcorn, ain’t it?”

 

“Perhaps. Not the most filling breakfast.”

 

“Hey, what about that popcorn we had left over from last time?”

 

There is a long pause before Hanzo admits embarrassedly, “You were right, it was very good a few days later.”

 

“I told you! I’ll just have to make sure to keep some made if you ever want any while I’m gone.”

 

“Or you could just teach me and it would no longer be your problem.”

 

“Ain’t no fun in that,” Jesse replies. “Maybe I like it bein’ my problem.”

 

Hanzo does not respond directly to that, which makes Jesse worried he overstepped a line, but then Hanzo is talking again. “There, I am ready. Is there anything I need to know about this before we get started?”

 

Jesse considers the movie that lay ahead of them and lets out a wicked little laugh. “I hope you like harmonicas.”

 

“...Nani?”

 

“Just watch.”

 

Thanks to Athena they are easily able to synch the video stream so the opening credits appear at the same time. It is odd, though, because the opening of the movie is nearly silent. No theme music to cue Hanzo in on the tone of the movie, which sets it up just right. Once Upon a Time in the West is more about the preparation for battle than the fight itself. Jesse, having already seen the movie, wonders if Hanzo would mind them talking through it considering their communicators are on. But he does not want to ruin it for the other man by ruining the mood. Hanzo answers the question for him. “What are they doing?”

 

“Waiting,” McCree replies.

 

“That much is obvious. Waiting for what?”

 

“The train.”

 

“You are going to make this difficult,” Hanzo huffs.

 

“It has a slow pace; I thought you liked those kind of movies.”

 

“I do, but they are just sitting there. Look, that man is messing around with a fly!”

 

“Boredom, I tell ya. What do you think I was doing earlier?”

 

“Please do not tell me you tried to catch a fly in your revolver’s barrel.”

 

“Not this time. I’ve learned my lesson for that one.”

 

“You what--?”

 

Jesse hushes him then as a distant whistle finally sounds. “Shh! Here comes the train.”

 

Nothing else is said until after the first eerie notes of harmonica music reverberate over the two communicators and the three men waiting at the train station confront the newcomer. When the harmonica player asks if one of their horses is for him, the man with the unsteady eye says they are shy one horse. Harmonica’s reply that they brought two too many makes Hanzo snort out a surprised laugh. “Oh, that is not a good sign for them,” Hanzo says.

 

“Harmonica doesn’t say much, but he gets the point across,” Jesse replies.

 

They chat off and on as the movie plays, more than they normally do in person. The long stretches of ambient sounds and no dialogue make it easy to fill in with questions and banter. Maybe it is because it feels odd to sit in silence with nothing but each other’s breathing coming over the communicator. Hanzo falls silent every time the music swells and the haunting harmonica sounds as a cue that something important is about to happen.

 

“That poor woman,” Hanzo says when Jill McBain steps down from the wagon and meets her new family for the first time, laid out on the neat row of picnic tables with mourners gathered to put them in the ground. “She traveled halfway across the country to find them all dead?”

 

Jesse hums. “Bad string of luck that is. Lesser woman would’a turned right around and went back for New Orleans. But she ain’t a lesser woman.”

 

“Very brave of her.” A few minutes later Hanzo pipes up again. “So, wait. That gang killed the family because they wanted the land, I’m guessing.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“But then this woman comes up and says she was already married to McBain.”

 

“Mmhm.”

 

“So now she owns the land. I can see how she is going to--what is she doing?”

 

“Trying to find a stash of valuables.”

 

“...I am so confused.”

 

Hanzo sounds it, frustration leaking into his voice. “You just gotta watch,” Jesse chuckles. “She’ll make more sense as we go.”

 

It is not until Frank is walking out of the bar in town that Jesse remembers the clock painted high on the wood planks of the building opposite. He hopes that Hanzo will be too engrossed in the action to notice Harmonica’s little quip, but no such luck.

 

“Time sure flies. It’s already past twelve.”

 

Across the line Hanzo bursts out laughing, a rough little staccato that has Jesse flushing at the teasing he knows will come next. “It is not as catchy as when you say ‘high noon,’ but I think you cowboys have an obsession with midday.”

 

“That’s when all the best duels happen, sug. I don’t make the rules.”

 

Hanzo laughs again, then gives a rather crude attempt at Jesse’s accent and his signature phrase. “It’s high noon!” he tries, drawing the syllables out. The last word gets butchered as he starts to laugh again and Jesse is helpless not to join him.

 

“That was awful, partner,” he grins. “Say it again.”

 

“No!” Hanzo shouts, giggling. Jesse wants to see Hanzo in the mornings more often. Before he emerges from his rooms and the controlled mask is in place, Hanzo seems so much more open and friendly and willing to play. Which is a turn of phrase Jesse really needs to avoid while thinking about right now considering Hanzo is probably lying in bed.

 

There is one question that Hanzo keeps asking throughout the movie. “Who is Harmonica?” Well, that and, “Why does he keep playing that depressing song?” but the first question is the more important of the two. It is the same question Frank keeps asking about this drifter that has blown into town and keeps ruining all his dastardly plans. With the final gunfight comes the stunning revelation that as a young boy Harmonica was forced by Frank to have a hand in his brother’s murder, and to live all this time with the knowledge that he could do nothing to stop it.

 

Hanzo is quiet at the end watching the unexpected death of Cheyenne, Mrs. McBain welcoming the railroad to Sweetwater, and Harmonica leaving town with the body of the only real friend he had throughout the whole movie. There is a certain unwillingness to interrupt the opera-like singing during the finale, but eventually the music fades and Jesse hits the stop button on his end. “So revenge, then,” Hanzo says.

 

“A common theme in westerns,” Jesse replies. Then he clears his throat a little. “I’m sorry, uh, about...I didn’t think about the ending. If the thing with Harmonica’s brother…”

 

Hanzo is quick to dash that thought. “Do not apologize. You did nothing wrong; it was a good movie. I cannot just avoid mentions of brothers or siblings all the time.” There is a long drawn breath then, and Jesse frowns as he listens. “I have been thinking a lot, about the things you have said. Reconciling with Genji and forgiving myself. It is not easy.”

 

“Nothing good ever is,” Jesse says in a low murmur. Hanzo acknowledges it with a hum of his own.

 

“Maybe. I have wasted so much time…” That one sentence is weighed down with so many years of regret that it is almost painful to hear. But the words that follow are filled with determination. Resolution. “I am tired of this defining who I am. All of you have been so welcoming and I want to--I need to try. I need to get past this, for myself. For Genji.”

 

Jesse puts the tablet aside and lays back against the bed properly, smiling up at the ceiling. “Best news I’ve heard all day. I never doubted you for a second, darlin’.”

 

Hanzo huffs a soft laugh. “Now that is a lie.”

 

“Not where it counts.”

 

“What about you?” Hanzo asks. “Anything you want to get past?”

 

It takes a moment for Jesse to figure out what exactly it is Hanzo is talking about, and when he does he groans, crossing his forearm over his face to cover his eyes. “I was wonderin’ when you were going to bring that up.”

 

“I would have asked when it happened, but you left me to watch Morrison wipe the blood from his lip.”

 

“His lip was bleeding?” Jesse asks, hope and amusement in his voice.

 

“I think he cut the inside of his mouth. You did punch him in the jaw. Not how I was expecting the night to end, McCree.”

 

“Oh?” Jesse raises his arm to look at the ceiling curiously and lets his voice drop a little deeper. “How were you expecting the night to end, Shimada?”

 

Hanzo chooses to ignore that in favor of asking a question of his own. “Are you alright? You seemed very angry when you left.”

 

“Yeah, I was.” He twists his arm around so he can prop his head in the palm of his prosthetic, thinking of what to say. “I ain’t gonna get into the whole thing, but...listen, me and Morrison ain’t never seen eye to eye, not in all my years with Overwatch. But I never wanted the guy dead.”

 

“I am sure it was a shock to see him again,” Hanzo says.

 

Jesse grunts. “You can say that again.” It is too late at night for opening up the whole can of worms, especially over the comms. Still, he feels Hanzo should know some things if he is going to be dealing with the fallout. “How much do you know?”

 

“Lena mentioned a few things,” Hanzo admits. “That you all thought Morrison and Reyes killed each other.”

 

“Yeah,” he says. “The short story is Reyes worked his ass off for Overwatch and Morrison got all the glory. Don’t get me wrong, Morrison’s a fine soldier in his own right, but...I don’t know. I’m biased.” He stares up at the light fixture above his head. There is a crack making its way jaggedly across the ceiling from its edge the ceiling. “Gabe got too deep in undercover work, and Jack climbed too high on his pillar. You get that far apart, the only way to meet again is to crash.”

 

He gets lost in the memories of it for a moment, of all the warning signs he ignored before he left. The little clues that his mind came back to again and again as the months stretched on, clues that had him questioning things he knew to be fact, but were they? He really should not be thinking about this right before bed. Shaking his head, Jesse says, “Sorry, it ain’t worth worryin’ about.”

 

“Yes it is,” Hanzo replies softly, gently. “McCree, how did you lose your arm?”

 

Jesse squeezes his eyes shut for a long, painful moment. Never fails, every time someone asks. In the space of a breath he can feel it all over again. “How about we save that for another day and a bottle of the hard stuff,” he suggests, suddenly tired. He cannot do this tonight. “You tell me yours, I’ll tell you mine. Deal?”

 

“Fair enough.” The other man backs off, and Jesse wants to whisper in his ear how wonderful Hanzo is for that small mercy. “I should let you get some rest.”

 

“I’m glad you called,” Jesse says. “We should do this again sometime.”

 

He can hear Hanzo’s smile. Jesse wonders what it tastes like. “I will keep it in mind the next time we have a mission together. This seems to be a good way to keep you out of trouble.”

 

“Or I’ll just drag you along. I bet you got in your share of trouble way back when.”

“And those are definitely stories for another day,” he laughs. “Get some sleep.”

 

“Can do, darlin’. G’night.”

 

“Goodnight, McCree.”

 

The call disconnects and Jesse pulls the communicator from his ear, placing it next to Peacekeeper on the bedside table. Around him the air is only a little cooler than it was hours ago, the heat still just as oppressive, the air conditioner still droning on at the window. He falls asleep thinking about the way Hanzo’s smile looks just after waking up, hoping that his dreams let him see it in person.

 

---

 

They wait until the cover of night to approach the target. Careful tracking over the past few days revealed that a majority of the people who live on the street work nights in several of the factories in the nearby industrial district, and the ones who do not will be well asleep. McCree takes a walk in the opposite direction an hour beforehand, giving a wide berth before doubling back to emerge from the alleys on the opposite side of the yellow house.

 

Weeds and tall grass grow up between the gravel and dirt at the back. Jesse stays close to chain link fence then the foundation wall as he skirts the property, ducking low to avoid the window and making his way to the breaker box on the corner. Bolt cutters take care of the lock, but the inside of the box is too dark to see without pulling out a flashlight. “Power’s off,” Jesse murmurs into his communicator. “Probably off at the source, but cutting the line anyway.” Not waiting for an answer, Jesse makes quick work of severing the power cables coming out of the box. No hiss, no sparks, his suspicions confirmed. “We’re dark.”

 

“Understood. Checking for surveillance.” Above he knows Genji is moving across the roof looking for signs of an independent system or transmission device unhooked from the main power. While he waits Jesse closes the door back and replaces the lock so at least nothing looks out of place, then sneaks his way to the back door. Back inches from the crumbling wood siding, Jesse pulls Peacekeeper and watches the darkness while waiting for Genji’s signal. Standing here in the shadows, dressed so similarly to his days in Blackwatch, Jesse feels what might be a pang of nostalgia.

 

“You are clear,” Genji finally returns. “I have the left upper window.”

 

McCree checks the handle of the door, not surprised that it is locked. “Roger. Forcin’ in the back.” He checks one more time behind him before holding the flashlight between his teeth. Turning to the side Jesse raises his prosthetic arm and abruptly slams the metal protrusion at his elbow as hard as he can into the seam of the door, jamming a wedge between it at the frame and leveraging off to force wood door to crack open. As silent as a crowbar and just as effective. Within seconds the door is open and Jesse transfers his flashlight from his mouth to his prosthetic, holding Peacekeeper out in front of him to survey the room.

 

The kitchen is empty. Nothing on the counters, nothing left on the floor. The space where the dishwasher used to be is empty, as is the large space of wall where a refrigerator stood. Everything is covered in a fine layer of dust. “Goin’ in,” McCree whispers, stepping into the house.

 

He moves from room to room just as Genji is upstairs, checking each one for people, omnics, or traps. Checking his corners, avoiding lines-of-sight from the windows, testing entryways for tripwires, it all feels so very familiar. Just like riding a bike. But nothing is there. Each room he enters is undisturbed since whoever was here last moved out. The whole thing feels like a bust. “First floor clear,” he says into his comm, sighing.

 

“Second floor clear,” Genji replies, voice at normal volume. He sounds equally annoyed. “There is nothing here.”

 

“Damn Winston,” Jesse huffs, holstering Peacekeeper and sweeping his flashlight over the walls of the living room. “All this for nothin’ but a bag of jocote?”

 

“Three bags of jocote! I do not understand. It is not like Winston to be so wrong.”

 

Jesse has half a mind to disagree but there would be no point. He walks around the four rooms on the lower level again--kitchen, living room, dining room and den--giving everything a more thorough once-over, but all the rooms are empty. No furniture, no curtains, no appliances, no nothing, just aged linoleum and ragged carpet--

 

“Hold up,” Jesse murmurs, stilling.

 

“What do you have?” Genji asks just as quiet.

 

Walking carefully toward the back corner of what would be a den or sitting room, Jesse sees a corner of a carpet panel curled up. He tilts his head, inspecting the area. There are signs of foot traffic at one point, the carpet around it pressed down from repeatedly being walked on, but nothing recent. Everywhere except this square, which looks comparatively less damaged. He reaches out and tugs the corner and the carpet pulls back easily.

 

“Bingo,” Jesse says, grinning down at the trap door. “Got a gopher hole.”

 

Genji is by his side in moments, shuriken already drawn. “If anyone was down there, they heard us.”

 

“Ain’t nobody down there,” Jesse says, pulling Peacekeeper anyway. “They’d have this exit better tracked. And if they are, we got things under control.” He twirls the revolver theatrically as if to affirm that last point.

 

“We have no idea what could be down there.”

 

“She might look simple but she’ll shoot holes big enough for whatever problems we find down there. Now, you goin’ first or am I?”

 

Genji’s helmet tips in such a way that Jesse knows the other man is rolling his eyes. Moving on, he holds up the hand not gripping a shuriken. “Play you for it.”

 

Jesse nods, holding out his prosthetic. “One, two, three, shoot,” they say in unison, Genji coming out on top with paper over rock.

 

“Ass,” Jesse says, kneeling down and inspecting the door. No obvious booby traps, but Genji steps back anyway. It opens with a hard pull that releases a blast of cool air into the warmer upper levels. All they can see is a ladder leading down into the darkness. “Gimme a light.”

 

Genji pulls a snap flare from hidden within his armor and cracks it before dropping it down the hole. Neon green light falls to the ground below, not too deep, and no one shoots it when it hits the bottom. “After you,” Genji says, gesturing to the ladder.

 

“Complete ass,” McCree whispers, swinging around onto the ladder and making his way down.

 

He drops as soon as he is close to the bottom and casts his flashlight around quickly. It looks like an old office of some sort hidden in a single basement room. Everything is all aglow with the green light from Genji’s flare. There is a desk and filing cabinets, several of which are tipped over, and an ancient computer monitor. Papers are scattered everywhere. This is what they were looking for.

 

Behind him Genji drops down, ready to strike. “At ease, Ain’t nobody here, like I said,” Jesse says, squatting down and picking up a handful of the discarded papers. His eyes flit across the text under the harsh glare of the flashlight. “Abigail Lyne, Stig Warwick, Thom Kostelecky, Michail Bulgari.”

 

“Who are they?” Genji asks, looking over his shoulder.

 

“Patients. These are medical records.” Patient after patient, from hospitals around the world. Some of them pretty remote, but a lot from major cities. He looks around. “An awful lot of ‘em.”

 

Genji holds out his arm and allows the mechanisms to retract the shuriken back into his hand. “Why?” He picks up a few of his own and flips through them. “I did not think people kept paper records anymore.”

 

“Don’t know...wait.” He looks back and forth between two of the files, then flips another open to the page listing diagnoses. “There’s some overlap here. A lot of terminal cases. You?”

 

“The same.” Genji turns through a few more. “Some of these go back ten years. Why would they be here?”

 

Jesse just shakes his head. Nothing obvious jumps out at him. Hell, he is not even sure if all this is a link to Talon or if it is just the files of an insurance scheme from some random sleezeball. He looks up and groans, nodding toward the monitor and the cord hanging loose from the back. “Took the tower.”

 

“Kuso,” Genji grumbles, dragging a few more papers close and stacking them together. “There is too much to look through on-site.”

 

“Got you covered.” Jesse tugs a folded bit of canvas from the back of his belt and shakes it out into a bag. “Throw everything in here, we can sort it out somewhere safe.”

 

“Or let Winston do it,” Genji adds, throwing what he picked up in the bag and standing to go check out the desk. He rounds the back and comes up short, his vents releasing suddenly at his shoulders. “McCree,” he says sharp enough to catch the gunslinger’s attention.

 

Abandoning the stash he was gathering, Jesse comes around to follow Genji’s gaze under the desk.

 

It is a nest. The thick fabric of a canvas tarp, a tan quilt, the curtains that probably once hung over the windows upstairs, all of it torn in some way and bunched up in a soft pallet on the concrete floor. Crumpled in the pile are the empty plastic wrappers of sandwich crackers, another of beef jerky cleaned of even the smallest morsel in the corners. A dry bottle that used to contain a protein drink. The pack of cigarettes on top still has a few sticks inside.

 

“A vagrant?” Genji asks.

 

“I don’t think so,” Jesse replies, kneeling down with his flashlight. At the back there is a little glass holder with the barest hint of wax at the bottom, the remnants of a candle burned clear down to the base. Leaning against it is a little figure of the Virgin Mary. Jesse picks it up to look at the worn paint. Wearing white draped with blue and arms outstretched, he has seen these figures a hundred times. It would not be too uncommon around here. They probably sell them at the store down the street. Reyes used to take one with him on--

 

Something jars painfully in Jesse’s memories and his eyes go from the figurine to the cigarettes again. The package is black with silver and gold filigree along the edges, crinkled in the middle from someone gripping them too tight. It makes the horse silhouette of the logo and the bold stylized lettering on the front hard to read, but he can recognize it anywhere. Sementales . The brand is the same. The brand is the same.

 

Jesse disregards his careful observation of the scene and rakes the pile of fabric back in a mad scramble, heart pounding hard in his chest. His hand connects with something hard and smooth wedged against the back wall of the desk, and his fingers wrap around it in trepidation before pulling it out into the glowing green light. A sleek shotgun, matte black metal with a silver and oak grip. The metal at the mouth of the barrel and around the ports is scorched from fire. Printed above the safety is a serial code: RPNT.

Chapter Text

“...And five, six, seven, and eight, take it slow!...Yeah, you got it!...Really contract those abs!...Good! Push the hips forward...to the left….and other side! Other side now! Yeah!...Woo, again! Last one now!...March it out! That’s right!...Push those shoulders forward! You got this, yeah!...and switch….and switch again!”

 

“How much longer?” Hana gasps, trying to emulate the rolling shoulder motion that Lúcio is doing.

 

“Girl we’re just getting started!” Lúcio replies, finishing up the last rep before falling back into a high-kneed march. “Let’s step it out a minute. Breathe in with it, then breathe out, you got this.”

 

Mei sucks in breaths a little too tightly for his liking and hisses, “I don’t know if I can do this!” She has been having the hardest time of it, her movements becoming more stilted and tight as they go.

 

They are all various shades of flushed and splotchy red, hair and clothes sticking uncomfortably to sweaty skin as they move in formation. When Angela had asked if Lúcio knew of any good cardio workouts to show them, she was not expecting him to proudly proclaim that he used to teach something called Brazilian Booty Burn. It took a whole morning of goading before Lúcio convinced the little group to give it a try.

 

Lúcio has been keeping an eye on Mei, though, and adjusting his routine to her stamina. For now he does a few hip rolls over to her position at the end of the line before falling in march by her side. “You’re doing great! Just move to the beat with me. One, two, one, two, keep it steady, keep it smooth.” Mei bobs her head to signal she is trying, preferring not to answer verbally so she can conserve more air.

 

“Do we need to stop?” Angela asks down the line.

 

Lúcio’s tone turns even more sing-song as he talks with the music. “Nah, we’re doing good down here. Just a little break, now, but keep movin’, keep movin’ to the beat. Check it, listen up.” He dances back to his spot in front of the group and grins. “I got my girls with me, five fine ladies if I do say so myself, and they’re gonna be helping me out with this dance party today!”

 

“Your girls, huh?” Hana pants sarcastically at his DJ-like introduction.

 

“You know you my girl, Hana-banana! By the time we’re done that meka of yours will be dancin’ across the battlefield!” He breaks out into a sudden robot dance that has all of them laughing despite their exhaustion. “There we are! This is supposed to be fun, so let’s have some fun with it! C’mon, now, Lena, you got a Running Man for me?”

 

“That move is so old!” Hana cries as Fareeha lets out a pained groan.

 

“I gotcha luv!” Lena proclaims before easily executing the dance move, Angela nearly falling over with laughter trying to avoid Lena’s thrown elbows. Fareeha catches her before she topples, grinning and rolling her eyes at the medic before setting her right.

 

“Yeah, work it, Tracer, work it!” Lúcio cheers. Lena is giggling so hard that she loses rhythm and Lúcio quickly gets them all walking in time before doing a twirl down to Mei again. “You with me?”

 

Mei nods again, puffing out, “I am with you!”

 

“A’ight now, we gonna turn it up, we gonna have Mei meltin’ the ice caps with how hot she’s getting!” She grins wide at Lúcio’s encouragement and he falls into formation in front of them to start again. “Now we’re going to do some ab twists. See me? Just like this. Okay, and four, three, two, one, let’s do it!”

 

The five of them move mostly in unison to twist in rhythm with the beat, pivoting at the waist as Lúcio does. The exercises are not overly complicated but Lúcio spends more than half his life on a pair of rollerblades bouncing off the walls. For him this is just another day; for the rest of them it is quite the workout. Even Lena is panting with each movement, not used to practicing so much with her arms and running in place. Her chronal accelerator does not do her much good here.

 

If Lúcio had not told them he was a trained instructor, they probably would have killed him already. At least his optimism helps. “Oh yeah! Like a pretzel, baby! Twist, and twist, c’mon! Twist, and twist. Let’s bring those arms up! Arms up! It’s party time, oh oh, party time, party time, yeah! You guys are doing great! We gonna add a knee, you ready? I hope you’re ready! Remember to breathe! Raise them knees! Raise ‘em high! Yeah, keep it up! Now let’s add a jump! Jump jump! Jump jump, feel froggy now!”

 

Angela bursts out laughing, trying to mimic the movement. “Now you’re just making it up!”

 

“It’s a real exercise!” He twists his head around and winks at her before turning back. “Alright, that’s a good warm-up, time to accelerate!”

 

“NO!”

 

Across the gym, Hanzo ducks his head to hide a laugh that he cannot quite contain. Zarya catches it from her position nearby and they share an amused smirk as Lúcio dodges a water bottle that Hana chucks at him.

 

They opted out of the group cardio session in favor of weights. The equipment is at least up to Zarya’s exacting standards so there are no complaints there, and she has happily moved from the bench press to deadlifts and back again. Hanzo is pretty sure she has been trying to inch her way more into Mei’s field of view over the past twenty minutes, making increasingly exaggerated flexing motions with every curl. For her part Mei has been much more focused on her own intense workout, though he would not put it past her to play hard-to-get. At first Hanzo had been worried about the seemingly shy girl, but now that he knows her better his worries are unfounded. She can handle herself just fine, if the occasional coy glance she sends the pink-haired Russian are of any indication.

 

The only other people in the gym are Satya and Winston, both up in the alcove where they keep the large exercise machines. Satya is on the elliptical with her headphones firmly over her ears, casting the occasional sideways glance at the party down in the main floor. Though, Hanzo doubts she can actually block out the deep thump of bass from Lúcio’s speakers. Or the sound of heavy grunting and wheezing from two machines over.

 

Poor Winston is running himself ragged on a treadmill specifically modified for his size and weight, huffing and puffing and sweating all over as he makes bounding strides on all four limbs. Hanzo feels sorry for him. It cannot be an easy run like that, and he suspects cardio has never been a big priority for the scientist. But Angela has been cracking down on Winston’s caloric intake lately, and she finally gave him an ultimatum: exercise or no more peanut butter.

 

Hanzo is not too keen on his own workout, either. Ever since he lost the lower half of his legs the remaining muscles have been a struggle to keep in proper shape. Sure, he is more athletic than the average civilian; he would have to be to scale walls and leap from perch to perch. But a lot of that comes from his advanced prosthetics compensating for what he has lost. His thighs, hips, and back need all the more care in exchange.

 

Which brings him to Zarya hovering nearby making sure he does fifteen more reps of leg extensions and does not cheat. She has already caught him once. “Very good,” Zarya says, setting her barbell down with a loud clank. “You take more weight than I expected. Very compact.”

 

Hanzo makes a grunt in acknowledgement, presing upward with his prosthetic shins. There is a pleasant burn in the front of his thighs. “I imagine we all look like ants to you.”

 

“Ha ha! Yes, but even my comrades from home look like ants sometimes,” she laughs good naturedly. She has really started to lighten up around him, much to his surprise. “You know, my mamochka, she is only so tall?”

 

He looks up and sees Zarya put her hand out around her mid chest, about five foot three. “No,” Hanzo insists. “What about your father?”

 

“He only come up to shoulder,” she says. “I could pick him and Mamochka up one under each arm!”

 

“They must be very proud,” he replies, trying to picture someone like Zarya being born to normal parents. It is hard to imagine Aleksandra Zaryanova’s family being anything other than a gathering of giants. The weightlifter beams a little at his assessment. “You speak with them often?”

 

“As often as I can. They want to visit sometime.”

 

Hanzo blinks. “Visit Gibraltar?”

 

She looks around the room at their fellow agents, laughing and talking and, in Hana’s case, putting Lúcio in a headlock. “Da. They would like to meet my comrades. They are colorful.”

 

“That is one way of putting it,” Hanzo agrees.

 

“Da. Now! Up, up, time for the leg press,” Zarya says, clapping her hands together and motioning toward the large machine to the side. At Hanzo’s wrinkled nose and dubious look she laughs and tugs him up by the arm. “Not make face! This last machine then you can cool down.”

 

He keeps his grumbling to a minimum, knowing someone like Zarya would hardly be swayed by anything he has to say on the matter. Which is why Hanzo is reclined on his back, nearly upside down, legs in the air pumping close to five hundred pounds of weights along the sled when McCree and Genji arrive. He does not see them so much as hear Lúcio interrupt himself mid-sentence to shout, “Look who it is! Bad boys back in town! Whoa, nice duds, gentleman, nice duds!”

 

Hanzo tilts his head backward so he can see the newcomers at the door. They must have just got back from their mission, but he cannot really see them from his position with all the girls and Lúcio gathered around to greet them. All he can see is a whole lot of legs.

 

“Oh good, you’re back!” Winston calls from the alcove. Or more like wheezes. He starts to press buttons on the treadmill. “I’ll be right down and we can debrief--”

 

“Winston, don’t you dare turn off that machine!” Angela shouts from by the door.

 

“But--!”

 

“You have ten more minutes, and you’re finishing those ten minutes!”

 

A bump to his hip brings Hanzo’s attention back to Zarya standing over him. “Almost done,” she says, nodding at the machine. “Two more sets and we stop early today.”

 

Counting under his breath as he gets back to it, Hanzo can tell the moment McCree approaches. He may not be wearing his spurs but McCree walks with a rolling gait that none of the other agents possess. Suspicions are confirmed when a cowboy hat and a cocky smirk block the bright fluorescent lights overhead. “Howdy,” McCree greets, looking upside down and amused.

 

“What are you wearing?” Hanzo says in lieu of a greeting.

 

McCree looks down at his dark, drab outfit and shrugs. “Undercover, sug. I know, it just ain’t me, is it?”

 

Four more reps and Hanzo’s legs relax, the weights falling back into starting position as he lets out a huff. He finally cracks a smile. “It is quieter.”

 

“Always the jokes with you,” McCree chuckles, stepping around to the side and offering a gloved hand to help him up.

 

Once righted Hanzo can get a better look at the dark jeans, the heavy boots, the hoodie-and-serape wrapped around his torso, and the charcoal leather hat that shadows his face. For a moment Hanzo can see Agent McCree of Blackwatch standing before him, all shade and force. He looks more dangerous like this. An illusion of course, but it took a while for Hanzo to reconcile the flamboyant cowboy persona with the laundry list of misdeeds in McCree’s file. Now he knows McCree would be dangerous dressed in nothing but coconuts and a grass skirt. But the outfit he wears now is far more appealing.

 

A shiver runs up his spine that he can only partially blame on his cooling skin. Hanzo turns to grab his towel, wiping down the machine to keep from looking too intently at McCree’s broad shoulders. “How did it go?” he asks, sending a nod of thanks to Zarya as the other woman makes a less-than-subtle retreat over to talk to Mei. “Did you find anything?”

 

There is a flicker of hesitation across McCree’s features. “Yeah,” he answers. “I...well, we found somethin’. Not exactly sure what.” Hanzo’s brow furrows as he looks up at McCree, confused by the sudden reticence, and McCree gives the black duffel at his side a shake. “Not meanin’ to be mysterious about it, but we’re going to run it by Winston first before we tell the others.”

 

“Sounds serious,” Hanzo comments, eyes dropping to the bag.

 

“Could be. Like I said, ain’t sure what we’re lookin’ at yet. No use makin’ a mountain out of a molehill.” McCree’s lips quirk up again. “You get that one?”

 

Hanzo gives him a flat look. “I got that one,” he says, glancing over at Genji. His brother is chatting with Hana and Lúcio about some food he had on his trip that they just have to try, posture relaxed but tired from travel. He and McCree must be waiting on Winston to go debrief. “I did not know he could change his armor.”

 

“Oh, you mean--” McCree hitches his head back toward Genji and the dark gray and cobalt of his current shell. “Yeah, I was surprised when I found out, too. Can switch ‘em out like a phone case. Told him once he should get somethin’ all glittery, that seems to be popular.”

 

“When we spoke before he made it seem like it was more...integrated,” Hanzo explains quietly, feeling a curl of shame wrapping around his heart and the thought of all the damage he did, and Hanzo does not even know the extent of it. Lena said that McCree and Genji were close. Did he tell McCree the details of finding Hanzo at the shrine in Hanamura? “I’ve only seen his face once and It was from a distance. Is he--” Hanzo’s throat tightens for a moment, and he swallows. “How much is…?”

 

McCree keeps his voice low as he answers, “Synthetic? Not as much as you’d think. Mostly internal stuff to keep things pumping. His arms. Wouldn’t be able to store his shuriken the way he does otherwise.” He tilts his head, eyes dropping down Hanzo’s body. “Might have more legs than you, come to think of it.”

 

The dark eyes that had been tracking Genji’s movements turn to glare up at McCree incredulously. “Are you trying to make a joke about our missing limbs, or about my height?”

 

“Six of one, half dozen of the other,” McCree grins. “And for the record, you’re both short. Don’t think losin’ any legs had anything to do with that.”

 

There is a beat of silence then a laugh bubbles out of Hanzo before he can stop it, soft and unexpected. He covers his mouth to try and muffle his mirth because it really is not that funny, but McCree’s blasé attitude about something most would consider taboo is utterly refreshing. “It is a good thing we are friends, or I would have to drop you where you stand.”

 

“You think you could take me?” McCree asks, eyebrow raising, clearly a challenge.

 

“Anytime, anywhere, gunslinger,” Hanzo replies, watching McCree’s smile widen with delight. It occurs to him, suddenly, that he is flirting. That they are flirting with each other. He had thought they possibly were the other night on the communicators, but he had convinced himself it was just wishful thinking. Maybe he was not giving himself enough credit.

 

He tenses, though, as Genji breaks away from the group and comes over to McCree and Hanzo. For probably the thousandth time since coming to Gibraltar, Hanzo wishes he could see Genji’s face. When they were boys Genji had worn his emotional state plain as day on his face, honest and unavoidable. The trait never really went away, even as they grew older and more knowledgeable in the ways of the world. No, the only thing that changed with age was that happy smile or mischievous smirk showing less and less until all Hanzo saw was bitter anger and resentment.

 

Not that Hanzo had ever had a clue how to interact with Genji anyway, even when he knew what his facial expressions looked like. Now even that knowledge is lost forever, leaving Hanzo with just blank unmoving metal.

 

It looks like Genji is just hesitant to initiate anything as Hanzo, because they just stand there staring at each other blankly for a long moment. But McCree, bless him, does not allow things to grow stilted and takes over the conversation easily. “Looks like we picked a good time to be gone,” he says to Genji. “Angela’s on a fitness kick.”

 

“I am surprised it took her this long,” Genji says, his awkwardly rigid stance relaxing somewhat. “She has already gotten on me about my diet. Someone must have done poorly their last physical.” The three of them glance surreptitiously up at Winston. The force of his strides has the frame of the machine shaking hard enough that they can feel the impacts through the floor. Satya keeps looking over at him worriedly.

 

“You won’t see me up there,” McCree says, shaking his head.

 

“You could do to run a few laps,” Genji replies, reaching out to tap the soft swell of one of McCree’s lovehandles.

 

“Hey now! I do just fine as I am, thank you kindly,” McCree complains, swatting back at Genji and protecting his sides with his prosthetic. A light flush spreads on his cheeks in embarrassment, eyes glancing over at Hanzo. “As I was sayin’, Genji here’s a little peacock. Got himself a whole wardrobe full’a fancy colored armor. Tell me, when would you ever need to wear gold and orange and teal armor? He’s s’posed to be a ninja--”

 

“They are like my clothes, I need variety,” Genji counters.

 

“Most expensive closet in Overwatch is what it is.”

 

“You dress like you fell out of a Texas thrift store. Who needs thirteen different serapes?”

 

“Some of ‘em are better for cold weather. And at least my style don’t require batteries.”

 

“Do you actually own a shirt that is not plaid?”

 

The back and forth banter is the most Hanzo has heard Genji speak since Hanzo arrived, and the first time he has heard Genji be playful in his presence. He finds himself holding his breath, almost fearful of disturbing things by reminding Genji he is there.

 

Across the room the girls and Lúcio are gathering their things, done for the day. Lúcio calls over to McCree, “Hey, Johnny Cash, you going to join us next time?”

 

McCree shakes his head and chuckles at the nickname, raising a hand palm up in defence. “Not me, no. Think I’ll leave the dancin’ to the professionals.”

 

“Jesse dances like an old man,” Genji says, earning snickers from the rest of the group and a scandalized look from Lúcio. Hanzo raises an eyebrow as McCree makes an affronted face.

 

“Now, hold on, now, that just ain’t true--”

 

“I have seen you dance; it is sad.”

 

McCree props a hand on his hip, narrowing his eyes at the ninja. “Maybe I just save my best moves for someone who deserves it.”

 

Fareeha, Lena, Mei, Zarya, and Lúcio all trill in tandem, “Ooooooooh!” before dissolving into giggles, Lena and Mei’s eyes flicking from McCree to Hanzo and back again. Lena hooks her arm with Mei’s and they share a knowing smirk. “Come on, I think we’re interrupting official business and we agreed ice cream after workout.”

 

“We didn’t agree on that at all!” Angela argues, retying her hair higher on her head. “You’ll ruin all the work we did!”

 

Fareeha puts a hand to Angela’s back to try and guide her out with the others. “It won’t be much, we promise.”

 

“But I need to make sure Winston--”

 

“Don’t you worry ‘bout that none, Miss Mercy,” McCree says, hooking a thumb in his belt loop. “We’ll make sure he finishes up.”

 

“Are you sure?” she asks, looking between him and Winston who has been loping along on the treadmill the whole time.

 

McCree tips his hat to her and shoots her a charming smile. “Yes, ma’am, we’ll keep him in line.”

 

“Alright...you better not let him cheat!” Angela reluctantly lets Fareeha tug her out with the rest, shooting McCree a suspicious look as she disappears around the corner. McCree and Genji laugh as soon as the door swings closed behind her.

 

“Damn, Angela’s layin’ down the law, ain’t she?” McCree asks rhetorically, turning for the alcove. With a few strides and three taps to the console the treadmill powers down with a vanishing hum, and Winston’s shorter legs slow along with the running track. He lifts his arms and braces them on the handles, leaning all his weight there and panting with his head hung down. “Take it easy there, partner,” McCree says, patting his back then immediately regretting it when his hand comes away sweaty and with a few black hairs stuck to the palm of his glove.

 

“Thank you,” Winston pants, chest heaving.

 

Hanzo rushes up with a bottle of water he never got around to drinking himself, handing it to McCree. “You should not push yourself this hard.”

 

On Winston’s other side Genji appears with a towel, tossing it around Winston’s neck to cool him off. “It will do your body no good to break it. Why are you pushing yourself so?”

 

“That damn sweet tooth of his,” McCree answers for Winston, passing the bottle over. The water is drained in seconds. “Winston, pal, it’s just peanut butter.”

 

The gorilla is finally catching his breath and shoots McCree an annoyed look while he retrieves his glasses from the holder on the console. “You leave me my vices, and I’ll leave you yours. Don’t think Angela will leave you alone about your cigarillos for long.” He peers at his spectacles unhappily before McCree takes them from his large fingers and uses his serape to wipe the sweat from the glass.

 

“Angie knows better by now,” McCree replies, giving each lens a good scrub and checking they are clear before handing them back. “Don’t you worry none, we’ll figure out somethin’ better than this. Can’t have you run ragged.”

 

Down the row, Satya powers down her own machine and steps off, tugging the buds from her ears and looking over the little group. There is a hesitance in her posture, something Hanzo catches while the others are distracted. They make eye contact and that must be what spurns her to action because she raises her chin and walks over, clearing her throat when she is close. “Agent Winston,” she says, gaining his and the others’ attention.

 

Winston needs to take a few calming breaths so his words do not come out like he is about to keel over. “Yes, Miss Vaswani?”

 

Satya folds her hands in front of her as she addresses Winston. “After observing your workout regimen I’ve determined that it is adequate but hardly efficient. While Doctor Ziegler’s recommended exercise program works well for humans, you are not human. For a gorilla such as yourself, cardiovascular exercise on a standard treadmill puts more strain on your back legs than necessary. If I may.” With a flick of her wrist she projects a hard light image of what looks to be rotating handles suspended from an upturned treadmill track. It hovers in the air between the four of them and rotates as a hologram.

 

“As you can see, utilizing your longer arms as nature intended would allow you to exercise for much longer. Your legs would still need conditioning but this would be sufficient for your purposes.”

 

“You came up with that just now?” McCree asks, tipping his hat back and looking impressed.

 

“It is my job to find solutions,” she replies, chin tilting upward even more.

 

“It is perfect,” Winston proclaims, wide lips parting with a grin. “Just perfect! Thank you, Satya.”

 

She nods, closing her hand and the prototype flickers out of existence. “You are welcome. I would need to have you test it but I have no doubt it should work for your needs--oh!”

 

Winston’s massive hand has wrapped securely around her own delicate fingers, shaking it firmly. “That is wonderful! We can try it out next time you’re available and I’m not--well, for now I am exhausted,” he laughs, shaking her hand one more time hard enough for her whole arm to bounce before letting go. “We can work out when is good for you.”

 

“Yes,” she says carefully, taking a step back and looking at her now-damp hand with mild distaste. “I will let you know. If you will excuse me.” Satya gives the three of them a brief nod before turning heel and making a swift exit for the door.

 

“I think you mighta come on a little strong there, Winston,” McCree says, smirking.

 

“Too strong? How do you mean?” he asks, stepping off the machine.

 

“Nothin’, don’t worry about it.” McCree gives the black duffel in his hand a shake before tossing it to Winston who catches it easily against his chest. “These are the documents we found. And something extra on top.”

 

Hanzo moves to take a few steps back, intending on escaping out to the hallway. He may be curious but this is for an official mission and he has no right to hear. But he barely makes it a foot before Genji reaches out with a hand to touch his arm, bringing him to a halt. “Stay,” Genji says quietly, just the hint of pressure from his fingers before he drops his hand. He holds Hanzo’s gaze a long moment through the visor. Hanzo is not sure if he is more shocked by Genji initiating physical contact or the request to stay. Maybe it is his imagination but Genji seems just as surprised. Hanzo gives a faint nod, which seems to appease his brother and the two of them turn back to watch.

 

Winston has already worked the zip on the bag open, a frown on his features as he finally looks inside. There is a pregnant pause before Winston draws a large, roughened shotgun from the duffel. His eyes flick up to McCree then back to the gun. “Is this…?”

 

“Yeah,” he confirms, jaw clenching before he visibly forces himself to relax. “Found a little nest in the hideout. He left that and a mighty big mess behind. Rifled through everythin’ and took what he thought was important. Whatever he was lookin’ for, he found.”

 

“Who?” Hanzo asks, realizing he is the only one out of the loop.

 

He is expecting McCree or Winston to reply, but to his surprise Genji is the one that answers. “Reaper.”

 

Reaper. The wraith. Hanzo has heard the others talk of him, has read what little they have on file regarding the enemy operative. How he slips across the battlefield like oil over water leaving death in his wake. Knows of his association with Talon, though no one is sure as to what extent, if he is one of them or simply a hired gun, or something even they cannot fathom. No matter his loyalty, he is a deadly and dangerous foe. In his time with Overwatch Hanzo has not had a run-in with Reaper; only a few of them have. Hanzo figures it is only a matter of time.

 

“Are you certain it was him?” Winston asks, though it sounds rhetorical. He is turning the gun in his hand, looking at the scorch marks.

 

McCree rolls a shoulder. “It’s possible it could be someone else, but my gut says it’s him.” He reaches out and takes the gun back so Winston can delve into the rest of the bag. The shotgun falls to rest on his shoulder in a practiced motion. “Almost all of them are medical documents. Ain’t really my area of expertise.”

 

“You said you thought he took what he was looking for?”

 

“Place was a shambles, but there was method to it. Computer was gone, too. Judgin’ from the the state of things I’d say he ain’t been there for months.”

 

Winston’s frown deepens, scanning a few pages as he thinks. “The property was listed under a generic business claim for nearly a decade, up until about a two years ago. That was when the business was uncovered as a Talon front. Anything under the name was subject to raids by local governments, so Talon abandoned their holdings left and right. Looks like they abandoned this one too, but whatever jurisdiction in Honduras that was supposed to search the location must have missed the bunker you found. Slipped right under our radar. We never would have known if Athena hadn’t caught a discrepancy in the database sweep. I thought it a good idea for us to do our own check.”

 

“Good to know we’re still doin’ other people’s jobs,” McCree comments sarcastically.

 

“So why is Reaper coming around behind Talon? Clean-up?” Genji asks.

 

McCree glances over at him and shakes his head. “Doubtful. If that was the mission, Reaper would have wiped the place clean, maybe even burned the building to the ground. He wouldn’t have made it so easy.”

 

“Which begs the question, why would he leave all this behind?” Winston shuffles through the bag, looking at the sheer amount of papers shoved inside.

 

“If this is not for Talon,” Hanzo says. They all look at him then, and Hanzo nods toward the bag. “If what you say about their methods is true, Talon would have told him to leave nothing behind. You said that whatever he was looking for he took with him. Either he is working for someone else with a different agenda than Talon, or Reaper was searching for something personal.”

 

“Personal.” The muscle in McCree’s cheek jumps, a tell that Hanzo easily picks up on, and McCree digs for a cigarillo in his pocket. “How you want to handle this?”

 

“I will have Athena scan all the documents and look for any patterns, but I will have to read everything over personally to make sure nothing is missed,” Winston replies, putting the papers back and holding a hand out for the gun. There is some hesitation there but McCree reluctantly hands the shotgun back to Winston who puts it on top then zips the duffel again. “Was there anything else?”

 

“No,” McCree states, shoving his cigarillo between his teeth.

 

Across from him Genji tilts his head just so, subtly enough that Winston does not pick it up. But Hanzo does. The ninja keeps his masked gaze on McCree even as Winston thanks them for a job well done and gives them a few days off missions barring emergences, then takes his leave back to his quarters.

 

The moment Winston is out of earshot Genji turns on McCree. “You should have told him.”

 

“There ain’t nothin’ to tell,” McCree replies.

 

“Intel like this could help.”

 

“I shouldn’t have even told you, I should’a kept my big mouth shut--”

 

“It is Winston; we can trust Winston.”

 

“It ain’t Winston I’m worried about. If you didn’t agree with me, you’d have spoken up yourself.”

 

“What is it you aren’t telling Winston?” Hanzo asks, because he thinks they have forgotten he is even there at this point.

 

Before McCree can get a word out Genji gestures to his mission partner and says, “Jesse thinks he knows who Reaper is.”

 

Hanzo rounds on McCree in shock and the gunslinger irritably waves a hand right back at Genji, growing annoyed. “I didn’t say that. I said I had a hunch. A hunch don’t mean nothin’.”

 

“You do not have bad hunches. It is why you are so good at this,” Genji argues.

 

“Then less than a hunch. A random thought, a flight of fancy. There’s no way, a’ight?”

 

“Who?” Hanzo asks.

 

“It don’t matter,” McCree insists. “The man is dead. Been dead for years. It was a dumb idea.”

 

Hanzo shakes his head, taking a breath. “McCree. Last week you punched a man in the face you thought had been dead for years. I thought--” Hanzo bites back the words, but for only a moment, “I thought Genji was dead not six months ago. I do not think now is the time to argue about impossibility.” At his side Genji visibly startles, and Hanzo refuses to meet his gaze this time.

 

“I would not have worded it quite like that,” Genji says. “But Hanzo is right.” He punctuates this by crossing his arms and stubbornly turning his faceplate right at McCree. Hanzo can imagine that McCree can probably feel the heat of his stare even through the metal. If it was not for the serious circumstances Hanzo would be internally celebrating that he and Genji actually agree on something for once.

 

McCree’s hands go to his hips and he sighs, looking off to the side. The words look like they are being dragged out of him. “Gabriel Reyes.”

 

Hanzo waits a moment to make sure he heard right. “...Commander Reyes. Of Blackwatch,” he says, seeking confirmation. McCree just gives a small tense nod, and Hanzo reaches up to squeeze the bridge of his nose. “The one Morrison supposedly died with.”

 

“That’s the one.”

 

Hanzo takes another fortifying breath. He is starting to think no one who dies in Overwatch stays dead. Then he remembers his brother standing next to him and wants to throw himself down a well for thinking such a thing. But back to the task at hand. In a mirror of Genji he crosses his arms over his chest, willing to hear the cowboy out. “Why do you think it is him?”

 

“His methods are very Blackwatch,” McCree explains. “Little hints he left behind. The way he went through things so it would look more haphazard than it actually was. The mess he made was purposeful. Even though he stayed there and probably assumed no one would ever check the office again, those old habits are so ingrained that he did them anyway. On the flight back I read the reports from the others’ encounters with him. Now that I know what I’m looking for, I can see Blackwatch all over him.”

 

“There was more than one Blackwatch Agent that retired over the years. Or was discharged, or lost their job along with all the other agents after Overwatch was dismantled,” Hanzo reasons. “It could be any of them, or someone who was taught by them.”

 

McCree shrugs grudgingly. “It’s possible.”

 

“Tell him what else you found,” Genji says. It gets him a dirty look from McCree.

 

“Snitch,” he accuses half-heartedly, reaching into the inner folds of his hoodie under the serape.

 

A crumpled packet of cigarettes and a small religious figurine are what McCree brings out, which only fills Hanzo with more questions. He reaches out to take the cigarettes, giving them a curious sniff. The tobacco has a spicy undertone. He does not recognize the brand. “Reyes’ brand I take it?”

 

“And he always carried one of these,” he says, looking down at the Virgin Mary.

 

Hanzo considers these items and what McCree has already told him. “It is flimsy evidence at best. Nothing concrete.”

 

“Which is why I didn’t say nothin’ to Winston,” McCree says with a hint of triumph directed toward Genji.

 

“However,” Hanzo continues, “I don’t think you should have kept it from your Commander. If you rely so heavily on your ‘hunches.’” He hands the cigarettes back, letting out a sigh. “What do you plan to do?”

 

“For now, this stays between the three of us,” McCree says, a note of authority taking over his voice for the moment. McCree had been high-ranking within the organization, he remembers. Seniority over most of the current agents. With time and observation he has noticed how many of the others tend to defer to his judgement, at least when it comes to strategy and mission-critical information. Not so much off-duty. “Just cause I’m chasin’ a wild hare don’t mean I’m right. If we get somethin’ more solid, we’ll take it straight to Winston. Just keep your eyes and ears open, see if anything comes of it.”

 

“You are worried about Morrison hearing about this?” Hanzo intuits.

 

“We question his motives,” Genji replies with a slightly bitter edge. “With his and Reyes’ history, we need to be cautious. It would be beneficial if Jesse would just talk to him.”

 

“I’ll get right on that,” McCree mutters, chewing on his unlit cigarillo. “Sleep first.”

 

Hanzo knows that they have been gone for nearly a week and must be exhausted, but this is the first time he and Genji have not been snarling at each other’s throats. He scrambles to think of a reason to make this last. “Have you two eaten?” he blurts. The vaguely interested look is enough to spur him on. “Let me make you both something before you retire. You will sleep better.”

 

“Just about anythin’ sounds good right about now, darlin’,” McCree says, smiling and tucking his cigarillo back in his pocket. “But I’ll settle for a sandwich.”

 

He does not even wait to give Genji the opportunity to decline, instead going straight for the bag he brought with him to the gym and heading for the door. There is some sort of scuffle behind him but when he glances back McCree and Genji are following obediently, though McCree seems to be giving Genji some sort of warning look. Hanzo does not question it or the faint flush on McCree’s features.

 

The walk through the hallways is comfortably quiet. McCree is more subdued than usual, offering up only a fraction of the commentary he normally does. That is fine. They are both surely exhausted from their journey, the jet lag, and sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings. Hanzo will make them both a sandwich and maybe a generous helping of chips or sliced fruits and vegetables, something refreshing. McCree always eats turkey so they will have that on hand. Does Genji still prefer roast beef? Or have his tastes changed? He can hardly believe he still remembers that all these years later--

 

“Holy Toledo, what is that?!” McCree bursts out suddenly from behind. And just like that Hanzo freezes with sudden realization.

 

Oh. Oh no. The couch.

 

They had taken the far stairs up to this level. Which walks them right past the open doorway of the normally-isolated secondary common room. Hanzo had forgotten all about it, too busy thinking about their conversation over Reaper, mind muddled from exercise and socializing with everyone, just happy to see the two of them back safely. This is not how he planned on showing McCree! Certainly not with Genji in tow! He pivots to find Genji and McCree both staring into the room, the latter slack-jawed. He breaks away from Genji to go inside and Hanzo moves closer to watch.

 

McCree walks around the piece of furniture to get a look from the front and his face splits into a beaming grin. “Where did this come from?”

 

Hanzo clears his throat lightly, hands crossing behind his back. “It was...nothing, I--”

 

“You did not,” Genji gasps, metallic voice so shocked and disbelieving that Genji cannot even remember to be aloof.

 

“You bought this?” McCree asks, looking up at Hanzo with an expression of pure joy that makes the swell of embarrassment rising inside him all the more worth it.

 

“Well, the couch was old and falling apart, and we had already discussed tidying the room to be more comfortable, and it was a slow week…” Hanzo twists his fingers violently behind his back to stop himself from babbling. “This seemed like your style.”

 

“I love it!” McCree laughs, tugging his glove off his flesh hand so he can run his bare skin over the fabric. “Feels a hell of a lot better than that scratchy old thing. She sturdy?”

 

Hanzo opens his mouth to answer but does not get the chance. With a sudden swooping motion McCree throws himself into the air to land on his back on the cushions with a hard bounce. There is enough give that he does not hurt himself, and the frame shudders and makes a loud creak but holds strong. McCree did not even lose his hat. Instead he crosses his legs at the ankles on the other end of the couch and puts his hands behind his head. “Ah, now that is just perfection!” he croons. “I could spend many a nap right here.”

 

A pulse of arousal shoots through him at the sight of McCree stretched out like that. Clothes stretched tight in all the right places, jeans framing the strong curves of his thighs leading up to grabbable hips and a zipper covering--this is just not fair. Hanzo has to stop looking at him, has to stop thinking about him, Genji is standing right behind--

 

And then Hanzo spots the boots. The propriety and decorum drilled into him from his youth kicks in hard and Hanzo steps forward to shove McCree’s booted feet off the couch. “No shoes on the furniture,” he chastises, even as a small pleased smile peeks out. “Were you raised in a barn?”

 

McCree laughs, rotating around to sit up properly, his hands spreading out along the fabric along the top of the couch to get a feel for it. “That ain’t the first time someone’s asked that and I reckon it won’t be the last. Where’d you get this from?”

 

“The shop in town, the one off the square.”

 

“Must of been hell gettin’ it up here. But it’s a right beauty.”

 

“I am glad you approve.”

 

“I more than approve!” He drags his flesh hand down the side to the arm of the couch and gives it a gentle shake. “You didn’t have to do this, though.”

 

“I wanted to,” Hanzo replies.

 

“Somethin’ this nice, I’ll definitely have to make it up to you,” McCree drawls sweetly, making Hanzo’s throat go dry. It is only by sheer force of will that he stays standing and does not do what he really wants; push McCree down, straddle his lap and keep him on that couch for the rest of the day.

 

“You know, I had a snack on the carrier,” Genji says. Hanzo’s face flushes bright red and he turns to regard Genji still standing awkwardly by the doorway. “I think I will pass on dinner. But I am sure Jesse here is plenty hungry. Were you not saying how thirsty you were earlier, Jesse?” He gives the two of them a slight bow with his head and takes a single step backward before pausing. “Have a good evening. Jesse. Hanzo.”

 

“Goodnight,” Hanzo murmurs faintly, McCree echoing the sentiment louder and forcefully enough to carry down the hall after Genji. His mild embarrassment fades to disappointment. Well, it was a try, anyway. And they were able to talk in the same conversation, even if it was not directly to each other. Hanzo can take that as progress.

 

“Don’t mind him,” McCree says, warm drawl much closer than Hanzo expected. Turning back he finds McCree has stood and stepped closer, thumbs hooked in the loops of his jeans. “He’s been eatin’ nothin’ but jocote for about four days, I reckon he needs to sleep off the sugar high. I can’t believe you went and did this.”

 

Hanzo looks away. “It was not exactly...planned.”

 

“I take it this is my present? And here I don’t have nothin’ near as impressive.” He pulls his serape back and reaches in his hoodie where he had the other items stored and pulls out a small wrapped object. “Hope you don’t mind that it’s not as grand.”

 

McCree holds it out to Hanzo, who stares at him a moment. “You got me something.”

 

“I got you somethin’,” McCree reiterates, smirking. “Go on. Don’t leave me hangin’.”

 

“You did not have to do that,” Hanzo complains, slowly unwrapping the trinket. It feels like more than one stiff object beneath loosely wrapped paper with protrusions sticking out from weird angles, and he cannot really tell what it is.

 

“Yeah, well, you didn’t have to get me a couch in a pattern I’m sure ain’t your style.” He raises an eyebrow as Hanzo finally gets to the gift, his own smile growing along with Hanzo’s as the archer realizes what it is.

 

Stacked one on top of the other are two carved figurines no bigger than his palm. Turning one over Hanzo realizes they are dragons. Feathered and legless, still dragons. They are different enough that he can tell they are hand-made, each one carefully painted a bright aquamarine with tiny lime green and pink highlights to their scales. Their mane of feathers is silver and dark blue, with snarling red mouths lined with a few tiny fangs. “Dragons,” Hanzo says, turning them over. “You got me dragons.”

 

“Lady at the stall said they were Quetzacoatl. Serpent god, used to be big down there. I figured that’d be close enough?” McCree tugs his hat off and rotates it between his fingers. “Looks a little like your dragons, anyway.”

 

“Udon and Soba.”

 

“Pardon?”

 

“My dragons,” Hanzo says, holding one in each hand. “They are named Udon and Soba.”

 

The look of surprise is exactly what Hanzo expected. “You named your dragons after noodles,” he says. At Hanzo’s nod, McCree continues, “Genji said that the dragons’ names were sacred. Unpronounceable, in some forgotten language, and couldn’t be known by anyone other than a Shimada.”

 

“That sounds like something Genji would say,” Hanzo says, grinning. “He just says that because he named his dragon Egg.”

 

“He what ?!” McCree exclaims incredulously before bursting out laughing. “Egg?! What? Why?!”

 

“We were both very young when we manifested the ability to summon our dragons,” Hanzo explains. It has been so long, he is hardly embarrassed by it now. At this point they are just names to him. “Our father tried to suggest more regal names, but we were children. I thought they looked a bit like big noodles. And Genji was barely able to talk, and had recently learned and fallen in love with the word ‘egg.’ Anything that was vaguely curved was an egg. Really, anything he set his eyes on was an egg. Even our mother was an egg. Unfortunate timing for his dragon.”

 

McCree laughs the whole way through, pressing a hand to his stomach with his mirth. “Oh, God. Egg! I am never letting him live that down,” he chuckles, flapping his hat to cool his face before dropping it back on his head. “There’s so much to work with there I won’t know where to start. Egg!”

 

“It would be wise not to make fun too much, or Egg will hold a grudge.”

 

“What about Udon and Soba?” McCree asks, biting down his snickers. “Should I behave myself for them?”

 

The dragons, which have been curling warm and pleased under his skin since McCree walked in the gym, murmur gentle approving words into his mind. Hanzo smirks. “Maybe one day you will meet them, and we will see if you have earned their favor.”

 

“Then you can tell them I will be on my best behavior, but I ain’t been known to be that behaved,” he teases cockily.

 

“I am aware.” Hanzo runs his thumb over the carved wood of the serpent’s spine. “Thank you, for these. They will look good in here, I think.”

 

McCree looks around. “Well, now that we’ve got a new couch and some decor, we definitely have to spiffy this place up. Southwest and Far East? Little unconventional but I think we’ll make it work.”

 

Hanzo sets his new dragons on the end table next to the couch and they head for the kitchen. McCree is full of plans for their movie room, chattering on about installing better lights and upgrading the television, maybe looking into a small fridge for the back of the room so they can have drinks right there, wondering if they can install a door since it was never designed to have one. The archer does not pay the words much attention, more inclined to just let them wash over him like a warm tide as he layers smoked turkey breast and cheese onto the bottom slice of bread. The most important thing he hears is McCree calling it their movie room,

 

“...and a new coat of paint. That will do the place wonders. They say the best way to spruce a place up is with a fresh coat of paint. You got any preference for color?” McCree asks, leaning on the other side of the counter while Hanzo finishes up.

 

“As long as the shade does not detract from the movie, I have no preference,” Hanzo says, turning and presenting McCree with his sandwich on a paper plate. “I am fond of blue.”

 

“Fond of blue, I’ll remember that. Thank ya kindly,” he says, taking the plate. He opens his mouth to say more but instead of words a jaw-cracking yawn wracks his frame, and he only remembers belatedly to cover his mouth. “‘Scuse me, sug, must be more tired than I thought.”

 

“Take it with you,” Hanzo says, pushing the bottle of water he had across the counter. “You should go on to bed.”

 

“Are you sure? I feel bad takin’ my food to-go.”

 

“You need your rest. Besides, if you fall asleep I will have to...how does your saying go? ‘Haul you like a sack of tomatoes?’”

 

McCree chuckles. “Potatoes. Sack of potatoes. But a good try.” He tucks the water bottle under one arm and cradles the plate in his good hand. “Maybe tomorrow we can catch that next movie?”

 

“I have a mission tomorrow,” Hanzo says, cursing his schedule for once. “But we should not be gone longer than that. The next day?”

 

“Lookin’ forward to it, darlin’,” McCree replies, shooting Hanzo a wink before turning toward the exit. “You have a good night.”

 

“You too.”

 

Fresh from a shower with hair in a damp bun on top of her head, Mei comes through the door just as McCree leaves. The cowboy tips his hat as he passes and she giggles just like she does every time McCree does something gentlemanly. She waits until McCree is gone before walking up to Hanzo with a sly little smile that has no right to be on such an innocent looking face. From the stack of books in her arms she pulls out her paperback of Romance on the Ramparts , the one he picked up for her in town, and slides it across the table toward him. “I finished it last night. You should borrow it, it’s really good! And it will tide you over until you figure out that little situation.”

 

Hanzo is mortified, but not so far gone as to turn down good advice, and picks up the book without another word.

 

---

 

The next morning Hanzo is gone before the sun rises. Despite their destination being the outskirts of Stuttgart, Reinhardt is conspicuously absent. Instead the team includes Winston, Angela, Zenyatta and himself, with Fareeha acting as their pilot and backup. A peacekeeping mission, Winston had called it. Possible recruitment.

 

Hanzo had not anticipated the Bastion unit currently parked near the back of the carrier, quietly communicating with Zenyatta in a common programming language and letting a yellow cardinal fuss with the nest of twigs on its left shoulder.

 

Ganymede, Zenyatta had called the little creature. The Bastion had named it Ganymede.

 

Well. He has seen weirder.

 

Turns out that Hanzo’s role in the mission had been mostly for scouting purposes. Finding the single Bastion unit in the large swath of forest could have taken weeks if there had not been a disturbance recently. But a local group of teenagers out to cause some trouble somewhere they should not be had a run-in with the omnic. Instead of leaving the machine alone they had chased and harassed it, which it tolerated until one of them threw a rock at its little bird friend. That resulted in one of them being delivered to the hospital sporting bullet grazes and the incident triggering Athena’s monitoring systems.

 

As unfortunate as the situation was, they at least had a place to start their search. Fareeha brought the ship down under Stuttgart’s radar so they could try and find the omnic before local forces did. They would surely destroy it and with it the possibility of finding out how this lone unit might have overcome the God Program in its systems.

 

Finding and approaching the Bastion swift and quiet was where Hanzo came in, with Zenyatta in tow to provide patient and calming communication. Not that Hanzo had understood any of the random beeps and boops that the omnic used to communicate, but after an hour long discussion Zenyatta assured everyone that Bastion (the name he would like to be called, as SST Laboratories Siege Automaton E54 takes too long for humans to communicate) was cautious but optimistic about the prospect of helping Overwatch. He would prefer that they refer to him with male pronouns, that he would like to see the grounds and meet everyone before he decides to join their organization, and that if they betray his trust and attempt to alter his code or dismantle him or Ganymede in any way he would eliminate each and every Overwatch agent in his way.

 

Really, he should fit right in.

 

All things considered, the encounter went quite well. They managed to at least get the Bastion unit away from an aggressive and mistrusting populace, possibly gained a valuable new ally, and they were headed back to Gibraltar with plenty of daylight left. A job well done and a successful mission with not a single injury. They could use more missions like this.

 

Hanzo turns and walks back toward the front of the carrier where the others are gathered, Fareeha at the helm. Winston has been watching Bastion and Zenyatta’s interactions quietly, possibly taking notes on his tablet. In the co-pilot seat Angela has been watching, too, but Hanzo thinks it is more for their safety than from observation of the omnic. She has been wringing her hands around the shaft of her Caduceus staff for a while now. “I understand that we need more agents, but we both know that Torbjörn and Reinhardt is going to be angry about this. They were against this mission from the beginning.”

 

“I had wondered why Reinhardt was not on the carrier this morning,” Hanzo says, taking hold of one of the stabilization handles on the wall of the ship. Fareeha keeps the carrier steady but Hanzo has never truly gotten used to air travel. “Do you anticipate it being a problem, Doctor?”

 

“I don’t know,” she replies fretfully. Normally she chastises him for not calling her Mercy or Angela. He cannot help it; calling her anything else still feels disrespectful. Maybe once they know each other longer. “Fareeha called ahead to let them know we were bringing him, so it’s not like they won’t know. But Torbjörn gets so paranoid, and Reinhardt with his time with the Crusaders, Bastion being near Eichenwalde...I just don’t know.”

 

“Zarya will not be pleased, as well,” Hanzo adds. “Though, if this Bastion maintains his peaceful nature, they should be won over. Eventually.”

 

“He is an odd machine, isn’t he?” Fareeha comments, reaching over the console to tap a few glowing buttons. Nothing noticeable happens with the aircraft, and to Hanzo she may as well have just jabbed at them randomly. He hopes they never try to teach him to fly. “I fully expected you to need my rockets by the end of the day.”

 

Angela sighs and leans her staff against her seat, forcing herself to relax and not stare. She knows Bastion has noticed because he keeps pivoting his optic lens toward her. “So did I. But he seems...oddly charming. What are we supposed to do with the bird?”

 

Fareeha hums. “Agents have had pets before. Remember Nicodemus?”

 

That draws a faint laugh from the doctor and Winston behind her, the gorilla shaking his head in amusement while he writes out another note with his stylus. “It’s hard to forget Nicodemus,” Angela says. To Hanzo, she explains, “He was the Blackwatch pet cat. Some poor thing that got brought back from a long mission. I don’t even remember who found him. They were supposed to find him a decent home but you know how these things go. One thing led to another and the next thing we knew he was a permanent fixture in their barracks.” She laughs again. “It was the ugliest cat I’ve ever seen.”

 

“Jesse named him,” Fareeha says suddenly, the rush of remembering something from long ago. “He always called it all sorts of nicknames, but I remember Jesse saying he was named after some character from a really old cartoon. Because when they found him he looked like a weird long-haired rat.”

 

Angela’s brows furrow. “I don’t remember that. I thought Reyes named him.”

 

“No, it was Jesse. And remember, he used to bring him bullet casings to play with because he wouldn’t play with normal cat toys.”

 

“Oh yeah,” Angela says, smile returning. “And it would shed all over everyone.”

 

“He was good for morale,” Fareeha points out. “Maybe Ganymede can be the new Nicodemus.”

 

“I would not count on that,” Hanzo says, glancing back at the little bird. He is crouched down in his nest like a fluffy feathery ball, looking up at Bastion adoringly. Or as adoringly as a bird can look. “And getting a cat now would not be ideal.”

 

“No more pets,” Winston says, tucking the tablet away at his side. “Not until we see how the bird goes. When we get back I’ll need to find somewhere appropriate for Bastion’s quarters to be; I’d rather not waste a room with a bed when we’re recruiting. And we’ll need to figure out some way to communicate with him that doesn’t involve an interpreter.”

 

“What about Torbjörn and Reinhardt?” Angela asks.

 

He draws a breath and lets out a resigned sigh. “I will deal with that when I need to. Let’s look on the bright side! Another agent in rotation will put the pressure off everyone else!”

 

Hanzo turns his head to watch the two omnics again. This is the sort of situation he would usually be distrustful of; an unknown and dangerous stranger in their midsts. One with a machine gun for an arm and a gatling gun on his back. But something about Bastion eases those worries. McCree is not the only one that has hunches, and following his instincts has gotten Hanzo far on his own. Besides, he seems to be getting along with Zenyatta just fine if the enthusiastic beeping and gesticulation is anything to go by.

 

Wisely, they decide on a small welcoming party to greet them at the landing pad just as they had when Hanzo arrived at Gibraltar. Lena and Satya are lingering by the entrance and, surprisingly enough, Satya takes the initiative in welcoming the newcomer. Hanzo loses track of them as the group dissipates, taking his leave and headed back for his rooms. With his day now open he is looking forward to having some free time. Perhaps he can get some target practice in before heading out to one of his preferred meditation spots. Or maybe he can track down McCree about that movie later.

 

He is not expecting to find a note. Stuck with a strip of blue painter’s tape right over the keypad for his room is a slip of paper, McCree’s rough scrawl written diagonally on the surface.

 

Heard you’re headed back early. Come up to the movie room. Wear something you don’t mind getting dirty. -Jesse

 

PS: You make a mean turkey sandwich, Shimada. Think I could hire you as a personal chef?

 

---

 

Thumping base is the first thing Hanzo hears as he makes his way through the back hallways toward the movie room, a sure sign that Lúcio is nearby. The next thing he picks up on is the sharp scent of chemicals being carried on a cool breeze. Curious. When he rounds the last corner and sees that most of the furniture from the room has been pushed back into the hallway--including the couch that took him and Lena forever to get up here--Hanzo nearly groans. What on Earth has McCree gotten into?

 

“--not saying that they’re bad games, I’m just saying that they’re not my thing, you know? They’re creepy and it’s a bunch of jump scares, and I don’t see how she can record herself playing them for hours and not scare herself!”

 

“I feel you, I do,” comes McCree’s smooth drawl in response to Lúcio’s complaints. “Personally, I don’t mind a good scare every now and then, but it’s those walkin’ mascots that gets me. The animatronics in ‘em. Them faces just ain’t right.”

 

“Da!” Zarya exclaims in agreement, her voice echoing more clearly than the others in the empty room. “Those places made me nervous as child. And you know it bad when omnics agree that they are scary. I not know why they think children enjoy being near them. And they make game about place like that? It same as clowns.”

 

“Ugh! Clowns are way creepy! Man, we got to stop talking about this, I’m gonna give myself nightmares,” Lúcio states. “McCree, you’re running down there on the left.”

 

“Shit--thanks.”

 

Hanzo finally steps forward into the light streaming from the doorway and stops at the edge of the threshold, right where clear plastic sheeting is taped down to the floor. The first thing that Hanzo notices is that McCree looks sinfully good in dirty jeans. Oddly enough the second is light streaming in from the newly-revealed vertical window, a feature that must have been hidden behind the slew of propaganda posters that used to adorn the far wall. He never even knew there was a window in this room. Third, and what probably should have come before the other two, is that maybe McCree’s sense of style is not a complete disgrace because it really is a gorgeous color blue.

 

Lúcio and McCree are working with hand brushes on adjacent walls at one end of the room, a plastic container balanced on the ladder between them filled with the beautiful sky blue paint. In the middle of the room Zarya is working with a paint roller on coating the ceiling with a fresh coat of white. She is so tall she does not even need an extender rod to reach. They have already painted the edges of the ceiling and have had time to let it dry. How early did they get started on this?

 

Zarya swings around to recoat her roller from the pan on the floor so is the one that notices Hanzo’s presence first. “Ah, he is here!”

 

“The help has arrived!” Lúcio cheers. He taps the volume controls on the little speaker next to their container of paint, bringing the noise levels down a little more.

 

“Hey there, sug,” McCree says as he turns with a bright smile. He is wearing a red plaid shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a pair of old jeans, the dye faded from a long life of wear and tear. Hanzo is surprised that the hat is missing, leaving a head full of messy tousled brown hair falling over his eyes. McCree is unfairly attractive when he is disheveled, but the overall look is a bit ruined by the fact that he has a ripped section of painter’s canvas wrapped around his neck just like his signature serapes. It and McCree’s jeans are already splattered with dots of blue paint. “Didn’t think you’d be here so soon. How did it go?”

 

“Winston is getting the new agent set up in his quarters,” Hanzo says, glancing down. In a neat row by the door are McCree’s and Zarya’s boots and Lúcio’s Converse. The sheeting underfoot makes crinkling noises as he ventures in on his prosthetics. “He prefers to go by Bastion, and I am not sure how communication will work with the rest of us, but he seemed enthusiastic once he realized we were not there to deactivate him.”

 

The Russian makes a displeased noise but does not comment, which Hanzo thinks is a rather big step for her as far as her omnic prejudices are concerned. Lúcio, however, is much more positive. “That’s great! I’ll have to head over and say hello once we’re done. I wonder what kind of music he likes.”

 

“Can you talk to him?” McCree asks, surprised.

 

“Sure can. There’s lots of omnics in the music industry, you know. They can keep a perfect beat and always hear the right pitch.” He dabs his brush along where two of the walls meet in the corner, kneeling down to paint all the way to the floor.

 

Hanzo looks around again, taking in what they have already accomplished. “You have been busy. Playing dress-up again, I see.”

 

“Oh this old thing? You like? I think it could start a new fashion trend,” McCree laughs, gesturing at his makeshift serape with his paintbrush before setting it down on the ladder and wandering over. “And yeah, my inner clock’s all outta whack. Figured I may as well get started. Hope you don’t mind I took the liberty of picking out the color.”

 

“Of course not.” The cowboy even remembered he preferred blue. “It is a beautiful shade.”

 

Zarya turns to start on another section of the ceiling, saying over her shoulder, “Tell him name of color.”

 

McCree gets a cocky little grin on his face and turns to fetch the bucket of paint, lid safely closed on top, and brings it over for Hanzo to look. There on the neatly printed label with a dot of the blue color next to it is the name of the paint in bold black print. Hanzo has to read it twice and then gives McCree an incredulous look, because seriously. “Really?”

 

“Really.”

 

“Please tell me you did not already know that was a thing.”

 

“It was destiny,” McCree insists. “How could I turn down a paint called High Noon!”

 

“You are lucky that it is still a lovely color and not hideous,” Hanzo replies, shaking his head.

 

“Hey, I took your preferences in account. And, I’ll have you know, I got two different blues.” He picks up a second bucket and hands it over. Hanzo had assumed it was another container of the High Noon blue, but this one has a blue dot on the label a few shades darker, named Liquid Jade. “I talked to the guy at the store about what room I was doin’, and he said that painting the wall behind the television darker than the others would be better for watchin’ movies. Somethin’ about accent colors. And, you know, stuff about style and makin’ the room look nice, but it all sounded believable enough. You like this one?”

 

This blue, Liquid Jade, looks almost the same hue as Udon and Soba’s scales. “Yes,” he says, looking at the wall it will be painted on, bare and still gray as the other rooms on this hall. “Where should I start?”

 

“I bet you’ve got a steady hand,” Lúcio says, tugging a smaller brush from his back pocket and tossing it at Hanzo. “McCree is awful with edging for someone with such good aim.”

 

“Paintin’ walls and sharpshootin’ ain’t nearly the same thing,” McCree complains.

 

“We had to correct a mishap already,” Zarya chimes in.

 

Hanzo is not surprised. “I’ll need the ladder.” When McCree opens his mouth to retort Hanzo points at him with the brush. “Not a word.”

 

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” McCree swears with a smirk, miming buttoning his lips with his fingers.

 

Soon enough McCree has Hanzo set up with a little container to hold a helping of Liquid Jade, perched atop the ladder and carefully painting where the wall meets the ceiling. Hanzo does not have much practice with a paintbrush, and cannot recall ever painting a room for any reason, but he picks up on it quick enough. Still, he is glad he heeded McCree’s advice and wore an old hakama and a simple t-shirt because he gets splatters on his front within the first ten minutes. He certainly has more patience for the task than McCree, who has a more haphazard approach to his brushstrokes. Lúcio has to chastise him repeatedly for letting his paint run.

 

“You’re making the wall uneven,” Lúcio scolds, reaching out with his brush to smooth out one of McCree’s heavy-handed strokes.

 

“It adds character,” McCree argues, but makes sure to tap the excess paint off his brush before the next pass. “You have to give me a break, I ain’t never painted a room before.”

 

“Really?” Lúcio asks, surprised. “No wonder you were so lost at the store.”

 

“I wasn’t lost, I just needed a little help. How was I supposed to know it’d involve so much junk.”

 

“I have never painted a room either,” Hanzo says, dragging the corner of the brush slowly along the wall.

 

Lúcio makes a disbelieving noise, “Wow, man. How is that possible? Didn’t you ever, like, paint your bedroom as a kid or something?”

 

“No. If we did, my Father hired someone for that,” Hanzo replies. In fact, if he remembers correctly, his father would not even allow them to pick out the color themselves. His father was very opinionated about upholding tradition, even when it came to decoration in the castle. Even the paint color had to be traditional. When his mother suggested something more modern he had expressed his opinion of that in a way that brooked no argument.

 

He always expressed his opinions in a way that brooked no argument.

 

McCree hums, drawing him out of that line of thought. “The color of the walls was never high priority when I was a kid. It was more about makin’ sure the walls were there at all. We were more concerned with food and rent, tell the truth--aw, shit, I got some on the outlet--”

 

“You are a disaster,” Lúcio laughs, rushing over with a rag to quickly wipe up the excess paint. “I think I’ve painted my nieces’ bedrooms at least a dozen times now. They go through phases like you wouldn’t believe! And pink, man, I’d have nightmares about everything being pink and purple after we were done.”

 

“I had pink bedroom when I was little girl,” Zarya chimes in, grinning at the memory. “It was pink and had white bears all over.”

 

“Awww, that sounds cute!” coos Lúcio.

 

“How many sibling you have?” Zarya asks.

 

Lúcio swirls his paintbrush around in the container in his hands, collecting a large amount for a stretch of bare wall. “Two sisters, Larissa and Lívia. Between the two of them there’s six little nieces to keep track of.”

 

“Larissa and Lívia? Your mom got a thing for L’s?” McCree asks.

 

“I guess,” he laughs. “We agreed when we had kids of our own, none of us were going to use L-names! We thought it was so lame back then. What about you? You got any brothers or sisters?”

 

“Nah, just me,” McCree smirks. “I think I cause enough trouble without more McCree’s in the world.”

 

Conversation ebbs and flows as they work their way around the room. It is not an overly large space but it is bigger than their personal quarters. They manage to set a good pace, steadily inching along and covering everything in shades of blue. Lúcio keeps up a constant stream of music from his speakers and the hours pleasantly slip by; things are going so well they might be able to finish in time to meet everyone for dinner.

 

That is, of course, when things take a turn for the loopy.

 

It starts when Hanzo is perched up on his ladder with the lighter blue paint, working his way up the edge of the window frame. McCree has been doing touch-ups in places where the now-dry sections are too thin and the former color shows through. Hanzo is concentrating on keeping a straight line up the wall when he feels a cold wetness pressed against his side and he lets out a startled yelp, looking down. There on his side above his hakama is a streak of High Noon blue, right on the little strip of skin his shirt exposed when he leaned up. And there is McCree doing his best to look innocent, focused on mixing his brush round and round in its container. Unfortunately McCree has never been good at looking innocent.

 

“Somethin’ wrong, sug?” McCree asks, glancing up with wide eyes and just the barest hint of a smile. He does an impressive job fighting the urge to look down at his handiwork.

 

Hanzo narrows his eyes at him, long enough for McCree to squirm. “No. Nothing is wrong,” he says, going back to his painting, careful not to raise his arm too high. As soon as McCree turns back--and that self-satisfied smirk is not subtle, McCree, not subtle at all--Hanzo counts to ten in his head before dipping his brush into his container and gathering a big glob of paint. Then he leans out over McCree under the guise of painting something higher above him and lets it drip right down onto his head.

 

The squeak McCree lets out alone is well worth what happens next.

 

“Hey!” McCree shouts, bringing a hand up to his scalp and finding a thick blob of blue on his hand. It takes less than a second for him to then smear that paint on Hanzo’s bicep.

 

This makes Hanzo gasp and jerk his arm back, retaliating by flicking his paintbrush at McCree in a way that leaves a crooked stripe across his canvas serape and down onto the shirt beneath. McCree looks down, considering this new development, and when he looks back up to meet Hanzo’s gaze his eyes are full of fiery challenge. The promise there makes Hanzo drop down to the ground and slip to the other side of the ladder as McCree loads up his own paintbrush. “Don’t,” Hanzo says, even as his own brush dips back into his bowl.

 

“Don’t what?” McCree asks, forced nonchalance.

 

“You know what.”

 

“Don’t know what you’re talkin’ about.”

 

“McCree.”

 

“Hanzo.”

 

“McCree,” Hanzo says warningly, grin forcing its way across his face. “Don’t you dare.”

 

Zarya grabs hold of Lúcio by the arm to tug him out of the way. The two fighters stand with the ladder between them, a temporary shelter, poised to attack, just waiting for the right moment. It draws out in a tense pause of anticipation.

 

It is impossible to tell who breaks first, but in seconds they are both slinging paint at each other. Hanzo quickly adapts to using his brush like a lacrosse stick to lob paint at his opponent while McCree prefers the direct approach of painting directly on whatever bit of Hanzo he can get his brush on while blindly swinging his arm. At one point Hanzo gives up on the brush entirely and throws a handful of paint that splatters McCree’s left ear. McCree responds by dropping his own brush to smear a handful right into Hanzo’s beard. The whole while they are laughing like mad, with Lúcio in the background shouting at them to stay on the tarp and please, please not to get paint in his speakers!

 

By the time they run out of paint in their respective arsenals they are breathless from laughing, leaning into each other for support, and covered in blue. McCree is trying to shake some out of his ear. Somehow he managed to get blue sideburns but kept his beard clean other than speckles. Hanzo’s beard, on the other hand, is going to take forever to clean.

 

There is blue dripping from his bangs, his clothes, even in the grooves of his prosthetics. His opponent is no better.

 

McCree, panting, holds out his completely blue right hand. “Draw?” he asks, grinning.

 

“Draw,” Hanzo agrees, shaking with his equally blue hand. It makes a gross squishing sound and their hands stick together before pulling away. They both make a disgusted face at the odd sensation.

 

“That was great,” Lúcio says, tapping on his phone. Hanzo is not sure but he thinks Lúcio may have been recording at least some of that. He pockets the phone and shakes his head. “You two are a mess.”

 

“Yeah, well,” McCree says, looking down at himself and Hanzo. “Price of war.”

 

Zarya waves towels at the both of them. “The walls are almost done, Lúcio and I finish up. You two need to wash before paint dry.”

 

At that McCree’s eyes widen and he puts fingers up to his sideburns, wincing. “Good point. Guess I’m ‘bout to waste a lot of water.”

 

Hanzo takes a towel from Zarya with a soft thank you, using it to get as much of the excess off his hands and hair. The paint smeared into the grooves on the soles of his prosthetics he cannot do anything about; he just hopes he will not leave a track of blue footprints all the way back to his rooms. “We apologize for leaving you to finish--”

 

“Don’t even worry about it, that was awesome,” Lúcio laughs, tossing a towel over McCree’s head. The cowboy takes it and scrubs at his hair like someone drying a wet dog, most likely grinding it in and making it worse. “You’re going to be blue for days.”

 

McCree pokes his head out with a sunny grin and discards his canvas serape to the floor, wrapping the towel around his shoulders. The upper half of his red plaid is remarkably clean, leaving the other half woefully ruined. “Worth it,” he says. “A’ight, let me get outta y’all’s hair. Where’d I put my boots…”

 

They basically get kicked out after that, being more in the way than anything, and they start a stiff walk back down the hallway towards the dormitories. Their clothes are sticking uncomfortably and McCree starts complaining about it before they make the first turn. “You started it,” Hanzo points out.

 

“Who, me? I would never,” McCree gasps, unable to keep up the facade and snickering. “You’re the one that dropped that big dollop on my head.”

 

“It was an accident,” Hanzo says, not even bothering to try and hide his grin. “You were the one who took it too far.”

 

McCree laughs, shaking a finger at him. “Oh, no, darlin’, you might have the others fooled but you can’t hide from me. I’m onto you, Shimada.”

 

He shrugs, immediately regretting it as some of the drying paint in his shirt pulls uncomfortably at the fine hairs on his stomach. The sooner he gets to a shower the better. Which makes turning down McCree even worse when he asks if he wants to swing by the kitchen to grab a beer first. “I need to get this off me,” Hanzo says, looking down at the paint caked under his nails.

 

“A’ight. Maybe a movie later?”

 

“We will have to use the main common room,” Hanzo points out.

 

“Then I’ll let it be known that it will be occupied tonight,” McCree assures, winking at him before turning to head the other way. “Talk to you later, sug.”

 

Hanzo lingers there, watching McCree walk away, not bothering to hide the satisfied smirk on his face. He wonders who McCree might run into on his little trip to the kitchen. He wonders if they will say anything. What is he thinking, of course they will say something. They are going to tease McCree mercilessly. Only Hanzo’s own embarrassment keeps him from following so he can hear it for himself.

 

Because there is a clearly slapped handprint right on McCree’s left ass cheek in High Noon blue.

 

---

 

Dinner that night is interesting to say the least. Mostly because everyone keeps laughing at them.

 

Despite spending the better part of an hour scrubbing his body raw there are still thick strands in Hanzo’s beard that refuse to be anything other than blue. He has better luck with the hair on top of his head but for a thin stubborn streak right in his bangs. There is a pale blue tinge to his nails and the creases of his knuckles, but other than that he manages to get the rest cleaned off.

 

McCree, on the other hand, walks into the common rooms with dyed-blue facial hair from his temple all the way to the corner of his mouth. There is no hiding it, and even though Hanzo can tell he is annoyed--apparently his hair takes color much more readily than is normal--McCree takes the good-natured ribbing in stride. The others are less likely to tease Hanzo but he is not about to get snippy over something like this. It was all in good fun, after all. As silly and childish as it might have been, he cannot find it in himself to regret acting foolish.

 

The video of their little paint fight must have made the rounds of the table at least four times and played enough for Hanzo to have memorized the audio. It brings a flush to his cheeks to hear his own riotous laughter mixing with McCree’s own on repeat. Angela has watched it five times on her own, tickled more every time she watches. The fifth time she started laughing so hard that she snorted. Hanzo stopped being embarrassed then because it is really hard to be mad when Angela laughs like that.

 

An added bonus is that their shenanigans do a great job of keeping the attention off their newest agent. Bastion may not need food any more than Zenyatta but the monk tends to be around during meals to socialize. It only makes sense to bring the other omnic along for introductions. Most of the agents cannot easily interpret Bastion’s robotic beeping but he does a surprisingly good job emoting his mood with simple tonal sounds. Zenyatta interprets the finer points. The majority of Bastion’s time is monopolized by Satya and Lúcio who compete for his attention like teenagers vying for someone’s affection. Torbjörn makes a few snide comments that are politely ignored, and Zarya keeps side-eying the omnic suspiciously, but no one says anything too offensive.

 

Reinhardt sits in mostly stony through the meal then excuses himself early. Fareeha waits approximately two minutes before shooting McCree a knowing look and leaving to go follow.

 

After, Hanzo takes it upon himself to start the dishes, partly to be of some service and partly because he is hoping that more paint will come off his hands. He is not at it long before a familiar presence saddles up next to him with dishtowel in hand, picking up a plate and beginning to dry. “Think we caused a stir,” McCree comments.

 

“Lúcio did get a good angle,” Hanzo replies.

 

“I think Angie ‘bout busted a rib on us in there.”

 

Hanzo’s lips quirk up and he hands McCree another plate. “I have not seen her act so carefree before.”

 

“Yeah, most the time she’s wound up tighter than an eight day clock,” McCree chuckles. He gives his beard a little scratch. “The paint ain’t too bad, really. We ought to try paintball sometime. Bet you’d be pretty good at it.”

 

“It always did sound interesting,” Hanzo allows. “But,” and here he checks over his shoulder, checking that no one is in easy earshot. Looking up at McCree he smirks, “Only if we are on the same team.”

 

McCree grins. “Hell yeah. Me and you, sharpshootin’? They wouldn’t know what hit ‘em. Might be too unfair.”

 

“We could give them a numbers advantage,” he suggests.

 

That gets him a scoff and they share a smirk that might be a touch arrogant, but you do not get to be as good at your trade as they are without a little arrogance in your blood. Behind them Angela comes in with two handfuls of dirty silverware that she dumps unceremoniously into the soapy water. “Jesse, swing by my office later and I’ll find you something to remove that paint. We can’t have you looking like that on a mission.”

 

“Yes, ma’am,” McCree replies. “Nothin’ but the most professional for Overwatch.”

 

“Uh huh.” She eyes them both and says, “You two behave in here,” before giggling and heading back to the table. Hanzo shakes his head and sets a wet plate aside in the sink before taking another. He did not think their fight was that funny.

 

They quietly work through a few plates, listening to the common rooms empty out behind them. After the sixth plate McCree sets it atop the neat stack he has made and pauses, hesitating in a way that makes Hanzo glance up at him. “What?”

 

“Right, so,” McCree starts, looking oddly nervous. “I know we talked about watchin’ a movie.”

 

The careful tone brings a soft surge of disappointment. He supposes the day was going too well. “I understand if you cannot. It has been a long day, and you are still tired from--”

 

“No, no, ain’t that.” Weight shifting, McCree turns more toward Hanzo and leans his hip against the counter. “We’re still on for that. But, uh. Well, I was wonderin’ if you’d mind someone watchin’ with us?”

 

He raises an eyebrow, pressing a wet plate into McCree’s hands even though it seems he has stopped drying to focus on Hanzo. “Who?”

 

“Genji.”

 

Hanzo’s hands still with the sponge on the plate, watching the suds slide down to drip into the bubbly water.

 

McCree barrels on; he must be aware of the minefield he just stepped into. “While we were on surveillance Genji brought up this movie he hasn’t watched in forever, and I’ve never seen it. He said it would fit right in with what we usually watch. And we were already goin’ to watch somethin’ anyway.”

 

His thoughts go to that morning, how they almost-not-quite managed to have a conversation. Agreeing to this seems like pushing his luck. “I do not know if that is a good idea,” Hanzo replies.

 

“Sure it is. I came up with it.”

 

“Is that supposed to convince me?”

 

“We don’t have to, it was just a suggestion. I can call the whole thing off,” McCree assures. He leans closer and Hanzo starts scrubbing the plate again, harder than ever. “Listen, I know it might get awkward, but I’ll be right there. You don’t have to worry about fallin’ into some sort of argument with him; I’ll cut that shit off before it starts.”

 

“We do not need a keeper,” Hanzo snaps with a glare. It makes McCree recoil, just a few inches, but enough for the fight to drain out of him in seconds. Shame comes quick on it’s tail. He closes his eyes and looks down at his hands in the cloudy water. “I apologize. That was…”

 

McCree shakes his head. “Hush now, it’s fine.” He turns back to the sink and picks up the towel to dry again, dragging it across the ceramic. “I know you don’t need a babysitter, but I happen to be friends with both of you and would like you to get along and if I can help facilitate that, then that’s what I’m gonna do.” He holds the plate up and gives his drying a critical eye before putting it on top of the stack and picking up another. Then he nudges Hanzo with his elbow. “C’mon, Hanzo, you can’t make me watch a movie alone with him; he talks through the whole damn thing and says the lines before the actors do.”

 

“He still does that?” Hanzo murmurs, finishing the last plate and moving on to cutlery. His brother used to drag him off to watch all manner of movies when they were young. The sons of a powerful criminal, they were never allowed to play at other children’s houses, and there is only so much the two of them could come up with to entertain themselves. Movies were easy. Movies did not cause conflict. It never mattered how good or bad they were, just that it kept them off their father’s radar.

 

You made a promise, he reminds himself. And McCree’s presence does seem to help, if this morning was anything to go by. All McCree is asking is for him to try.

 

He turns to look up at McCree, eyes catching on the ridiculous patch of blue in his hair. McCree must be able to tell where he is looking because his lips quirk up into a warm smile that reaches his eyes. It makes it dreadfully easy to indulge McCree in whatever he wants, much to Hanzo’s chagrin. “You should ask him before he leaves for his evening meditation.”

 

If McCree is surprised by Hanzo’s decision he does not show it. The cowboy just grabs a dry towel to wipe his hands and tips his hat. “Good idea. Don’t you go runnin’ off, now. Shouldn’t be long.”

 

Alone in the kitchen, Hanzo can feel his stomach tighten with dreaded anticipation. Everything in him is screaming to flee. But no--all McCree is asking is for him to try. And Hanzo is tired of being a coward.

 

That does not stop him from considering the merits of fetching his canteen, or maybe even downing a few shots of sake. Instead he turns back to the sink. There are dishes to be done.

 

---

 

Somehow, two lifelong expertly-trained assassins get outmaneuvered by an American that wears spurs, which seems like it should be impossible and maybe Hanzo and Genji should just turn in their weapons and retire. Because somehow McCree manages to get the two of them sitting on the couch together and takes the chair for himself. This after placing a large bucket of his signature popcorn on the center cushion between them.

 

McCree chatters on while he gets settled and sets up the movie, acting completely oblivious to the obvious tension in the room. But Hanzo knows better. He can appreciate the effort, though, even if so far Hanzo and Genji have only been replying to McCree’s comments and not to each other.

 

Rashomon comes as a surprise. It is a movie Hanzo is familiar with, but has not seen in a long time himself. And, from what he remembers, this does not seem like the type of movie Genji would watch of his own choosing. He had always been more inclined for mindless action, the summer blockbuster, big productions with lots of special effects. Certainly not something with a small cast and made in 1950. Hanzo recalls Genji lambasting just this type of movie as something only stodgy old people watch. How the times have changed.

 

“Off to a rip-roarin’ good start,” McCree comments as they listen to the priest bemoan the disturbing events he was called to witness and how they have shaken his faith.

 

“Do not worry, it livens up,” Genji says. So far his mask has stayed firmly in place. Out of deference to that, Hanzo has not had so much as a single piece of popcorn. It might be slowly killing him inside. Hanzo has not seen Genji eat a meal in public, not once, even though Hanzo knows that he does when dining with Zenyatta or McCree. Why would McCree purposefully make snacks that Genji cannot eat?

 

“Hey, it’s my buddy!” McCree exclaims happily when Toshiro Mifune shows up on the screen, wrapped in rope and on trial as Tajōmaru.

 

“Your buddy?” Genji asks, confused.

 

“We already watched Seven Samurai,” Hanzo says when McCree seems to not hear, focused on reading the subtitles as he is. “He reminds me of Kikuchiyo.”

 

Genji hums a resonant tone. “I can see that.” Then, “You would be Kyūzō.”

 

Hanzo turns to look at him, unable to tell if Genji means it as a simple comment or as an insult. He is on the verge of asking, no, demanding what he means, when McCree pipes up, “That’s what I said.” He tosses a few popped kernels into his mouth and chews. “He is such a Kyūzō. Now, alright, how come it seems like he’s always playin’ a cornball?”

 

“He does not always,” Hanzo says. “We just happen to have seen some of his more comedic work. And he is not a...a corn-ball,” he adds, the word pronounced carefully and with distaste. “He is outlandish, as a well-known bandit should be.”

 

“Should be?” McCree asks.

 

“If he was a good bandit, no one would know his name,” Genji says knowingly. Then, to Hanzo, “Has he not watched Yojimbo?”

 

“I am sure we will, eventually,” Hanzo says before he can give it much thought. Genji tilts his head and Hanzo knows he is being watched, but when he glances over Genji’s visor is pointed back at the screen.

 

McCree watches avidly, throwing out random questions in the gaps between dialogue, but the story is rather easy to follow. They do have to pause and rewind when McCree gets on a tangent about how women are treated in these movies, always thrown about and made to feel inferior, brought to tears at every turn. It is endearing that McCree can get so into an old movie that he feels the need to defend a character’s maligned honor. Some personality traits you just cannot turn off.

 

By the time the wife has launched into her version of the events of her husband’s murder, Hanzo is considering abandoning all pretenses and just shoving a handful of popcorn into his mouth. Maybe he and Genji are not all that different after all, because no sooner does he think it then Genji is reaching up toward his face. The catches that hold his helmet in place hiss as he releases them and Hanzo jerks his eyes back to the screen, not sure what the protocol is for this. From his periphery he watches Genji place the mask on the table before them, hand hesitating before leaving it on the metal surface. Another brief moment, then he reaches into the bucket for popcorn.

 

“I cannot eat it all on my own,” Genji says, nibbling at the pieces he picked. It is all the prompting Hanzo needs to take some for himself.

 

“Now, we both know that ain’t true,” McCree pipes up from his chair, smirking at the television screen.

 

“Quiet, cowman, you will miss the dialogue,” Genji says dismissively.

 

McCree grumbles something about their unfair advantage knowing the language that both brothers ignore.

 

Genji takes another bite. “It is good, is it not?”

 

“It is,” Hanzo agrees. “I still have not figured out how he does it. If he would just show me,” he says pointedly.

 

McCree waves him off, trying to concentrate on the plot. “Not today.”

 

“Wait, he said he would tell you?” Genji asks. At Hanzo’s nod, Genji huffs. “I have been trying to weasel it out of him for years! He does not tell anyone! The only thing he keeps more quiet is how to wield Deadeye!”

 

Genji follows this up with shoving another handful of popcorn into his mouth, and Hanzo picks up another piece much more primly. He feels a sudden smug satisfaction at this development.

 

“Alright, alright, hold up a minute,” McCree says when they get to the third version of the tale. “So, the first story is shit, obviously. The bandit’s gonna make it sound like he did the honorable thing to get himself out of trouble, even though I don’t see how that should make any damn difference cause he wouldn’t be in this trouble in the first place if he hadn’t tried screwin’ the samurai’s wife, right?”

 

Hanzo tries not to smile at the path of McCree’s logic and nods his head. “Yes.”

 

“And the second story’s gotta be shit, cause her story is she fainted cause her husband looked at her mean for too long, which, come on, that is just--that is the worst lie I’ve heard in all my days and I have heard some whoppers in my time. That’s the kind of lie you come up with on the fly and after it comes out you know you just said the stupidest thing you possibly could. So that story’s gotta be full of it.”

 

Amusement colors Genji’s voice when he answers, “That sounds plausible.”

 

“And now, now you’re tellin’ me they’re talkin’ to the dead guy through some sorta witch doctor?” McCree asks incredulously, motioning at the woman swinging wildly about the screen shaking the rings of a Pilgrim staff at the camera. “Ain’t nobody got sense at this trial.”

 

“At the time this was set it was a perfectly acceptable witness for a trial,” Hanzo reasons.

 

“They even dub over the girl’s voice for the samurai’s,” McCree complains, yawning behind his hand. “Who they going to bring out next? They gonna interview the birds in the trees nestin’ over the murder? Maybe talk to the butterflies?”

 

Genji lets out an infectious laugh at that, clear and so achingly familiar that Hanzo turns his head to look before he can stop himself. It gives him his first look at Genji’s clear unobstructed face, much closer and better lit than at their confrontation in Hanamura. His lower jaw is still almost completely covered in a way that makes it hard to tell if it is a similar attachment as the faceplate or if it completely replaces the jaw. Around where his hairline would be it is much more obvious, thin metal meeting flesh in delicate curves down to his ears. One is deformed, half gone and ragged along the top. Stark silvery-white scars cross his face in precise slashes, the wounds long healed and leaving the skin papery thin in some places, thick and rough in others.

 

Hanzo’s eyes meet Genji’s, the same soft light brown that Hanzo remembers, like freshly poured green tea. Despite everything else seeming so different, those eyes are exactly the same.

 

He realizes he is staring and forces his eyes away, focusing on the middle distance. It feels wrong to want to feast his eyes on Genji’s features, to want to memorize the way he looks now, even if knowing each and every mark feels like a strike against his heart. It was so easy for McCree to tell him he had a second chance, but hearing it and following through are two entirely different beasts.

 

The movie goes on without Hanzo seeing it, completely wrapped in his own head, thoughts of his own guilt circling in on each other until there is room for nothing else. So focused inward is he that Genji startles him when he calls out to McCree. “Jesse. Jesse?”

 

Hanzo looks over to find McCree has fallen asleep. His feet are propped up on the table--in boots no less, this must be a bad habit of his--and his serape is pulled up tight around his neck. The hat he never bothered to remove is tipped down over his face, obscuring his vision. His chest rises and falls in the slow cadence of slumber.

 

“He must still be tired from Honduras,” Genji says, lowering his voice for McCree’s sake. “And painting all day. I saw the room earlier. It looks good.”

 

“Thank you,” Hanzo says politely, looking down at the space separating their knees.

 

“It will be a great place to relax, once it is finished.”

 

“Hmm.”

 

“I still cannot believe you bought him that couch.”

 

“It is not just for him.”

 

“With that pattern? It could hardly be for anyone else.”

 

“I am more concerned with comfort than aesthetic. It hardly matters to me what the couch looks like.”

 

“All the same, I would not let him choose all the decor. I heard he picked up a few other pieces while he was in town.”

 

“...That is worrying.”

 

“You can look, you know.”

 

The softly spoken words make Hanzo glance up but for a second, then he forces himself to look and maintain eye contact. “I was not sure if that would be welcome.”

 

Genji swallows and shakes his head. “You do not need to avoid me. We may not get along but I asked you to be here, and I want you here.”

 

“You have been avoiding me just as much,” Hanzo says, because he simply cannot let the jab go. Nothing like a sibling to make you snippy for no reason. He sighs. “We have been avoiding each other.”

 

He does not bother denying it. “I know that I am not easy to look at--”

 

“No,” Hanzo states firmly. It is easier to look at him when they disagree it seems. “That is not what I meant and you know it.”

 

“Maybe,” Genji says, eyes turbulent. “But it feels...I am aware of how people see me.”

 

“This has nothing to do with--I put them there,” Hanzo replies, hands balling into fists in his lap. “The scars, the metal, it’s all my doing. That is why I do not look. I have no right to look at you.”

 

Genji opens his mouth but no words come out, as if he has to think about what he wants to say. “Hanzo,” he finally sighs, twisting on the seat to face him fully. The popcorn bucket gets placed on the coffee table, safely out of the way. “I wish I knew how to make you see that I have truly forgiven you.”

 

“I am trying. I am. But after my actions it seems...unfathomable.”

 

His brother casts his eyes about the room as if seeking guidance and fall on the still-running television. “Do you know why I suggested Rashomon to you and Jesse?”

 

The subject change catches Hanzo off guard. “He said it was because he had not seen it, but he never said…?” McCree also never said that Genji suggested it to the both of them. He casts a quick glance at the man in question but he has not moved a centimeter.

 

“It is about flawed perspectives,” Genji explains, gesturing at the screen. “How we see things as we believe they happened, twisting the story to fit our narrative. Even the woodcutter, the man who should have been the most honest and objective about the murder, is unable to tell the truth in court due to his own personal motivations.”

 

On the television Kikori’s version of events are beginning to play out, the version he kept from the court. The samurai’s wife beginning to goad the two men into their fateful duel. Hanzo remembers how it plays out. The wife, spurning the proposal from the bandit then having her own affections spurned by her husband, mocks and ridicules until they are forced into a combat neither wishes to be part of. Their blades shaking in fear, the only reason the samurai falls is through sheer luck.

 

“You need to stop seeing things as you choose to believe them,” Genji says, and Hanzo whips his head around, disbelieving.

 

“I hardly see how I could be remembering incorrectly,” he replies.

 

Genji actually rolls his eyes, another familiar gesture that Hanzo did not realize he missed until now, even if it is directed at him. “Of course not, you only see things from your perspective.” He holds up a hand to stop Hanzo’s protests--good, valid protests, he thinks. “All these years, you have focused so much on our fight. Do you not remember the words we exchanged before?”

 

Hanzo pauses to think. He used to obsess over every detail of that night, but the exact words have faded from his memory over time. The order from the clan elders sits prominent in his mind, heavy and echoing and final. But the vicious shouts he and Genji exchanged are less distinct. Glazed over by time and pain. After that is mostly sensations and visuals, not words. It makes him feel ill. “No,” Hanzo admits, frowning. “I do not.”

 

“You had been summoned to have an audience with the clan elders,” Genji says, careful and soft. “They were unhappy with me, and had been for some time. I knew what the meeting was about, but I did not think you realized.” He pauses to see if Hanzo will speak, but Hanzo keeps his silence. Hanzo did know what the meeting was about. He just had not known what to do about it at the time, and had went because that was what he was bade to do. “When you came to the courtyard to find me, I was prepared for a fight.”

 

“You already had your blade drawn,” Hanzo remembers, the bits and pieces falling back into place with Genji’s prompting.

 

“We had been at each other’s throats almost every day for over a year.” Genji takes a breath. “You were not the only one that lost control that day. I had no intention of being silenced, especially by you.”

 

“Genji--”

 

“I knew you were there to reason with me, somehow, and I would not hear it. I goaded you, because I knew you would snap eventually. I wanted to fight.”

 

“Genji, that does not excuse what happened!” Hanzo hisses, the feel of his heartbeat in his limbs.

 

“I would have killed you,” Genji says. The statement is said without the slightest shake of Genji’s voice, and Hanzo stares at him. “It did not matter, then, how it ended; my death, your death, running, just...it had to end. I could not live that way anymore. It seemed like the only way out was for one of us to die.” He looks down at his metallic hands gripping the seat cushion. “It could have just as easily been you. For a long time, I never wanted to admit that the half of me that was not angry at you and the elders and Father and our life, was angry at myself for pushing you into it.”

 

Hanzo shakes his head, annoyance and hurt warring on his face. “You are not blaming yourself for this,” he says. “We were--I was controlling your life, and then I took it from you--”

 

“Stop,” Genji says, finally breaking the gaping chasm between them and reaching out. His smooth fingers grasp Hanzo by the hand, inhumanly strong but so gentle. “Please, Hanzo. We cannot--” He bites at the soft remains of his bottom lip, unsure how to continue.

 

Hanzo grips back just as tightly. The metal of Genji’s hands hardly registers. It does not seem to matter anymore. “Do you,” Hanzo starts, pausing to swallow around the sudden lump in his throat. “Do you want to know what I really thought, back then? What I still think?”

 

“Of course,” Genji replies, his other hand wrapping around their joined ones. Hanzo realizes his arm is trembling, just enough to be noticeable, Genji’s hands trapping the tremor between them.

 

“You--you fought for everything you ever wanted,” Hanzo says, a hiccuping laugh escaping. “And it was hell on everyone, but you were so brave. You were always the brave one. You stood up for yourself, stood up to Father, I couldn’t even believe--and I--you have no idea how much I wish I could have just--”

 

“Hanzo--”

 

“No, it--I thought that my duty was to the clan, to our family, but you are my family and--I was a fool to forget that you were more important. The most important thing to me. You should have been the one I was protecting, no one else.”

 

Genji shakes his head. “I knew you were protecting me, and I didn’t appreciate it. You had to bear the brunt of the clan’s expectations and my actions just made your burden heavier. I could have made it easier on you--” His words catch in his throat, and Hanzo watches tears gather heavy and glistening in his eyes. “I thought you hated me.”

 

“Never,” Hanzo swears, his own vision going blurry. He grips Genji’s shoulder with his free hand, pouring every ounce of sincerity he has into the words. “I have never stopped caring for you. Never. Do you hear me?”

 

Genji surges forward, crushing Hanzo to him fiercely. Hanzo’s arms almost fail to cooperate in his emotional shock, but once his brain catches up he hugs his brother back just as tight. His body does not give like it should, and the strength in his cybernetic arms will most likely leave bruises, but Hanzo could not care less about those things. What he does care about is the way Genji presses his face to Hanzo’s shoulder, the few hot tears that drip and soak through the fabric of his shirt, the sudden imperfect sense-memory of Genji’s scent. He had nearly forgotten. A few tears manage to slip down his own cheeks and Hanzo closes his eyes, willing this to not be a dream.

 

The words Genji speaks next are so quiet, in their native tongue, that Hanzo nearly misses them over the thudding of his own heart in his ears. But he whispers them back just as desperately. “I love you too, brother.”

 

Eventually they pull away from each other, reluctantly, but such open affection was never their way. Maybe that will change, now. Hanzo thinks it might be a step in the right direction. He clears his throat softly while Genji swipes away the tears from his face, and for one awkward moment they both stare at each other as if to say, ‘What now?’ Genji laughs at the absurdity of it. “What a pair we make.”

 

Hanzo could not agree more. He rubs a hand over his own face before looking back at Genji’s. The scars still cause his gut to clench painfully, and he knows Genji knows. “It will get easier,” Genji says, reaching for his mask.

 

“You should go without it more,” Hanzo tries. “You should not feel the need to hide. Not here.”

 

“It is a comfort, some days,” Genji admits, turning the mask around in his hands. Now that the inside is visible Hanzo can see a network of little wires and chips leading into the visor. “Besides, it has its advantages, and helps me breathe easier. But yes, that is something I must keep working on.”

 

“What can I do to help?” he asks, worried that the question will come off as an empty platitude.

 

Genji pauses, but it only takes seconds for his answer to come to him. “I want there to be a day when you can look at me and all you see is who I am now. Not the boy you knew, and not what happened. I do not want you to look at me and see mistakes. Just...I want you to see me.”

 

“I will,” Hanzo vows. Never has a promise come so readily to his lips. He has done nothing but doubt his own strength to be what Genji needs him to be, unable to let go of the past and forgive. No more. It will not be easy, and Hanzo has no idea how long it will take. But he swears to Genji as well as himself that he will give Genji this.

 

“Thank you. That is all I ask.” Genji lifts the faceplate back into place and secure the locks then, breathing in deeply and swaying slightly at the rush of oxygen. Hanzo steadies him with a hand until Genji’s voice comes back piped through the extra filter of his mask. “I suppose we should wake McCree and get him to bed.”

 

McCree. He had forgotten he was even in the room. But there he lays still completely lost to the world. “I did not expect him to be such a heavy sleeper,” he says. They had not exactly been that quiet for part of their outburst.

 

Genji tilts his head, and his voice is oddly annoyed when he replies. “Yes. You would think someone from Blackwatch would be a little more aware of his surroundings.” Hanzo frowns a moment but Genji stands, and he automatically rises along with him. “I believe I am more tired than I thought. I think I will leave for my rooms, if you do not mind waking him?”

 

“Do you need help?” Hanzo asks, concerned about this sudden lethargy. His brother shakes his head in the negative.

 

“I will be fine. Perhaps I am not as immune to jet lag as I thought.” He squeezes Hanzo’s arm assuredly. “Tomorrow I am going out to meditate at the top of the mountain. Would you join me?”

 

That request seems easy enough. “Yes. We can do that.”

 

“It has been a while since Egg has been summoned outside of battle. She is feeling restless. I imagine Soba and Udon are as well.”

Hanzo pauses at that, looking dubious. “I am not certain letting them out together is a good idea.”

 

Genji laughs, unconcerned. “Hanzo, the dragons have forgiven us and each other a long time ago. They were just waiting for us to catch up.” He gives Hanzo’s arm a soft pat. “Goodnight, brother.”

 

Hanzo watches Genji leave, and the moment he is out of sight Hanzo drops back to the couch and presses his face into his hands. That had been overwhelming and more intimidating than any mission. He takes calming breaths in and out, willing himself not to fall apart now. Gut-churning nausea wars with giddy elation.

 

For the first time, Hanzo allows himself to really believe that they might be okay.

 

He glances over at McCree with the intention of waking the other man and telling him a truncated version of events. What he is not expecting is to catch a very awake McCree using the index finger of his prosthetic to tip up the edge of his hat to peek out at Hanzo. The cowboy drops the hat the moment he is spotted, but it is too late. Hanzo gasps. “You--!”

 

McCree shifts his legs down to the floor and sits up, adjusting his hat back into position on his head, and gives Hanzo a guilty smile. “Howdy.”

 

Hanzo stares at him incredulously for a moment before huffing out a laugh and rubbing a hand over his face. “You were listening the whole time. Why am I not surprised?”

 

“I told you I wouldn’t let things get out of hand on you,” McCree says, propping his elbows on his knees and clasping his hands in front of him. It looks vaguely like someone begging for forgiveness, but Hanzo can tell McCree is hardly sorry for his actions. Maybe just for getting caught. “‘Sides, I think it went rather well, don’t you think?”

 

“Yes,” he agrees, face flushing when he realizes what all McCree overheard. He thinks he should be more angry about the breach of privacy than he is. “It could have gone worse. I thought you recommended taking smaller steps in this.”

 

“Yeah, well, a little leap now and then never hurts.”

 

“You--you set this all up,” Hanzo realizes. This was not a spur of the moment idea. This was planned.

 

“Ah. About that,” McCree says, turning sheepish and scratching at his throat under his serape. “Was supposed to give y’all some privacy ‘bout half way through the movie. Had this whole thing planned to be back in the kitchen, you know. But I got a bit distracted by the movie, and you two didn’t seem to want to talk about anythin’ unless I was here, so I improvised a bit.”

 

“You are unbelievable,” Hanzo states.

 

McCree shrugs, unrepentant. “I just set the stage. You two did all the work.” He takes his hat off and holds it to his chest. “You mad?”

 

The affection swelling in Hanzo’s chest is as far from mad as he could get. “No,” he says. “Annoyed that a certain cowboy keeps meddling in other people’s business, but not mad.”

 

“I don’t meddle,” McCree argues. Hanzo gives him a deadpan look and McCree corrects, “I only meddle a little. It was good meddling! It worked, didn’t it?”

 

Hanzo laughs and shakes his head, standing. McCree follows suit, reaching out as if to pick up the popcorn bucket and return the leftovers to the kitchen. He does not get the chance as Hanzo takes a few steps forward into his personal space, bringing him to a halt. Muscled arms wrap around McCree and draw him into a strong embrace, one that McCree returns easily.

 

“Thank you,” Hanzo murmurs wholeheartedly.

 

“You’re welcome, darlin’. Anytime.” McCree rubs his back before they step back, just enough to put space between them.

 

It is all Hanzo can do not to push his way back into those arms and bury his face in the soft serape, soak up his warmth and the scent that is so uniquely McCree. Or tip his face up to capture those lips for himself.

 

Instead they part for the night, exhaustion from the day tugging them toward their respective beds. There has been enough confessions for one night, and Hanzo feels rent open. He needs to get rest if he is going to spend tomorrow with Genji, and he wants to bask in tonight’s success and the connection he has been missing for years.

 

McCree lingers just a moment by Hanzo’s door before wishing him a quiet goodnight and heading for his rooms. This time Hanzo does not watch him go, instead ducking inside and shutting the door. Something is going to give, Hanzo thinks as he gets ready for bed. He has always been cautious to let others get close, but McCree has torn down all his walls with that charming smile and honest drawl. The soft look those brown eyes gave him as they said goodbye, the yearning he thought he saw there…

 

He wants this. He thinks McCree wants it, too.

 

Soon.

 

Chapter Text

The Watchpoint at Gibraltar is tucked neatly along the outer edge of the Upper Rock nature reserve. When the facility was originally built, part of the negotiation with the British territory was that Overwatch would ensure the safety of the reserve and that no harm would come to the flora and fauna within. As such, new recruits had the rules drilled into them about respecting the natural habitat and not disturbing the sanctuary. There had been a handful of incidents over the years, mostly involving drunk junior agents doing stupid touristy things, but for the most part Overwatch has upheld its end of the bargain with the local government. Even after their downfall, Winston maintained the facility in a way that ensured nothing encroached outward into the reserve.

After the recall, the older agents made sure to let the newer ones know of their responsibilities regarding the nature reserve, but it has never been a problem. There is a certain level of gravity to their mission now, unsanctioned as their organization currently is, and with it comes an expectation of maturity that might have been lacking in the past. Not that recruits who would stupidly wander around the peninsula and mess with the local environment usually lasted long in Overwatch. Anyone who acts like that never would have made it to full-agent status. Luckily for all of them, none of the current agents are the type to do something like that.

Which is why Winston does not think twice about Genji’s forays into the reserve to meditate and train. But it is also why Hanzo tries not to be offended when Winston does a double-take after seeing the two brothers geared up and headed out the door, stopping Genji to murmur a quiet, “Don’t forget yourselves out there.” The warning might have been warranted a few days ago--Hanzo refuses to think it may still have merit--but last night’s conversation awoke a new resolve in him and the morning light only reinforced it.

Genji just gives Winston a reassuring pat to the shoulder and says, “We will not,” with a confidence that warms Hanzo through to the bone, because for once they are on the same page.

Hanzo has not explored much of the reserve beyond the immediate perimeter of the Watchpoint. Those first few weeks when he kept to himself he had been more concerned with learning his new surroundings and seeking out the best vantage points, weaknesses, and hiding spots. The Watchpoint is a large facility, after all, and memorizing every dark corridor and ventilation shaft brought the comfort of safety that he desperately needed at the time. The wilderness beyond the walls was something he thought he would deal with only if necessary, if he ever felt the need to flee.

Now, walking up a narrow foot-worn dirt path through the stone pine and Aleppos, Hanzo wishes he had taken the time to seek it out before. Though part of him is glad he is experiencing it for the first time like this, with his brother as a guide. They never discussed the destination, but it bothers him not. Genji knows where they are going and for once Hanzo is happy to be led.

It could not be a more beautiful day. The sun shines down through the canopy overhead and paints them with dappled gold stars, and the breeze brushes the loose hairs along Hanzo’s nape just cool enough to take the edge off the humidity. All around are vibrant greens and the scent of mossy earth that fills their senses with life. They walk for a while in a silence that is anything but, the gentle hum of insects all around and the distant roar of the ocean a pleasant and comforting white noise that dashes any awkwardness like waves against the shore. When they do speak it is of their surroundings; there is no room for dark pasts and hard conversations when you are surrounded by such beauty.

“I used to roam out here,” Genji is saying, picking his way through the sparse undergrowth. “When the others got to be too much. You think Reinhardt is loud now, you should have heard him back then.”

“How many were there?” Hanzo asks as he steps in Genji’s footsteps, avoiding a patch of mud to the right. “Agents, I mean. There are a lot of empty rooms in the base still.”

Genji hums, a thoughtful metallic tone. “There were more types of agents then,” he explains. “But of Overwatch, there were usually around a hundred on base here at the Watchpoint. Between all the other bases, a little over a thousand.”

The numbers are surprising. “So many?”

“A lot were rank-and-file soldiers. They would be sent in for peacekeeping purposes, or to assist other militaries. I was part of the strike teams, agents like us with unique abilities.” Genji adjusts his bag on his shoulder, looks up at the canopy. “Blackwatch was smaller, more close-knit. Maybe a hundred total there, I think. I never saw more than a handful in one place, but I think they liked it that way.” He shakes his head and presses on, “And then staff. They were closer to civilians than anything.”

“I had no idea. When I would see footage of Overwatch on the news, it was always a small squad of agents.”

“Just the way the commanders wanted it. They tried to keep our numbers vague, but it made some countries nervous. We were seen as a threat, on occasion.”

Hanzo considers that, and nods to himself. Yes, to an outsider, he can see it. A group of highly trained people skilled in combat, infiltration, technology, surveillance, espionage? There are endless possibilities of what a group like that could accomplish if they had a less-than-honest agenda and no accountability. And there were a lot more of them than Hanzo realized; chances are they were not all fine upstanding soldiers. The infighting from the previous generation is evidence enough. There is already heavy suspicions that former Overwatch members might have been absorbed into Talon, after all. But it is hard to imagine the current group of agents, Lúcio or Hana or Mei, going rogue. “Do you think it will ever be that numerous again?”

“I do not think so. I do not know.” His brother sounds troubled by the thought. “Part of me hopes not. The bigger Overwatch became, the harder it was to be a part of. Felt too familiar.”

“I can understand that,” Hanzo replies knowingly. He would rather this never feel like the organization of their former family empire. “The leadership seems solid, now.”

That brightens Genji right up, his posture straightening and he takes a set of rocks two at a time up an incline. “Winston is great! Flourishing, actually. I was worried he would not take to it but his heart is always in the right place. He is the biggest fan of Overwatch there is.” Genji throws out a hand suddenly and Hanzo goes stock still, eyes darting around instinctively looking for a threat. But his brother does not reach for his weapon, instead pointing up at the canopy ahead.

Hanzo finds his mouth falling open in a surprised gasp. “Is that…?”

“Yes,” Genji says, the warmth in his voice obvious. He seems quite pleased with Hanzo’s reaction.

Perched on a low branch not thirty yards away a narrow face peers out from a mane of golden brown fluff. Long thin fingers and toes wrap around the wood as the animal holds itself balanced and still, watching the two interlopers moving through its forest. When it realizes it has been spotted lanky arms extend and swing its body up a few branches higher. It peers down curiously again from the safer position. Beyond it, farther up in the trees above, a half dozen others crane their necks to look down at them.

Hanzo takes a few tentative steps forward to bring himself up next to Genji, eyes wide with growing awe and delight. “What are they?” he asks, keeping his voice faint despite his excitement.

“Barbary macaques.” Genji raises a hand and wiggles his fingers at them in greeting. “They are protected here in the reserve. The only wild primates in Europe.”

The monkeys give a few hoots and trills, hopping overhead to get a better look at these two ground-dwellers. Hanzo tilts his head back and twists to watch their progress. “Are they dangerous?”

“As dangerous as any wild animal. We will not mess with them or feed them, but they may come down to say hello. Just try not to upset them.”

“You have interacted with them before?” Hanzo asks.

“On occasion. They like to see how close they can sneak up to me while I am meditating.” He chuckles, stepping closer so Hanzo can follow the line of his arm as he points at the different macaques. “See that one, with the odd coloring? She is one of the mothers. I have seen her with several young over the years. I call her Hanoka. That one, next to her, is one of her children. He is Hibiki; when he gets to screaming it echoes all over the mountain.”

Genji points out a few of the others, only the ones he recognizes. There are far more on the mountain than he knows, the population having grown to over four hundred over the past few decades. Efforts at conservation finally paying off. The macaques in this particular troop avoid the tourist areas more than the others, preferring the relative seclusion near the Watchpoint. As such Genji has had the opportunity to grow familiar with them.

“You always did enjoy the monkey exhibit at the zoo,” Hanzo says as they start walking again. Above the macaques follow their progress. “And you had that stuffed animal--”

“Mojo Jojo,” they say in unison, Hanzo breaking off into a chuckle. Genji turns to glance back at him through his visor. “How do you remember that? I lost him when I was six or seven, I think?”

“You did not lose him,” Hanzo corrects. “You gave him to a pretty girl you met on vacation, not realizing you would never see her again. Then you cried all the way home.”

“I did not!”

“Did too,” Hanzo grins. “You were inconsolable. Mother called you a little heartbreaker.”

Genji shakes his head; Hanzo imagines that he is probably blushing behind his metal mask. “She thought it was endearing.”

“That is one way of putting it,” Hanzo teases. It gets him an elbow to the side.

“One of us had to be, what with your sour face.”

Hanzo lets the jab go, looking up at the monkeys hopping from branch to branch marking their progress. He makes a mental note that their mother can be considered a safe topic. It does not surprise him; the Shimada matriarch was a kind and devoted woman, and Hanzo and Genji loved her dearly. It is their father that brings about such achingly horrid memories. If he is going to bring up their childhood, he will try to leave their father out of it for now.

They head higher up the north side of the rock to where the forest becomes less thick, out to an olive grove nestled along the rock face. Here the candytuft grows lavender and pale between the limestones and the sky opens up above them in endless blue. Genji leads Hanzo winding between the thinner trees to a grassy spot near the middle where exposed rocks form an uneven circle. It is here that Genji stops and removes the sword and satchel from his shoulders to spread his arms wide. “What do you think?”

Hanzo looks around, taking in the peaceful surroundings. “It is beautiful,” he says, setting his own bag, bow, and quiver down by one of the rocks. “I can see why you chose it for meditation.”

“I used to come up and practice my katas. It has not changed much since then.” Genji folds his legs in on themselves as he sits and Hanzo follows suit after checking that the ground is not too damp. They cannot see the ocean from here, the pines beyond the olive trees far too tall and full, but they both naturally sit to face that way anyway. Once seated Genji removes his mask without preamble, taking a shaky uneven breath of the salty-woody air into his lungs. It forces a cough as he gets used to the change in air pressure. He waves off Hanzo’s concerned look. “I am alright.”

“How long can you go without it?” Hanzo asks of the mask.

Genji considers the metal cradled in his hands before setting it aside. “A few hours before it gets difficult.” He glances over to see Hanzo with his mouth open but no words coming out, clearly hesitating on something. “Do not worry yourself; you can ask anything, I will not be offended.”

He wonders at the validity of that statement but swallows down the rise of guilt to look over Genji’s face, noting the faint imprint on the skin where the mask presses into his forehead and temples. “I cannot imagine...do you need it to sleep? How much can come off?”

“You know, not many people ask about the sleep,” Genji says, tilting his head slightly. “If I am in my rooms I wear a mask hooked to a breathing device, a continuous positive airway pressure machine. It helps to keep my airways open while I am unconscious. When I am on mission I just keep the mask on and my vents regulate the pressure.” He taps the metal plating on his chest. “Most of the outer shell comes off, my arms up to the shoulders and my legs halfway below the knee. There is a section, here,” and he presses a palm to his lower abdomen, “that is mostly synthetic. It is amazing what Angela was able to replace or replicate.”

“Amazing,” Hanzo echoes, eyes wide as they linger on the spread of Genji’s fingers. He can recall the slice of his katana through giving flesh, a weakness in defenses. No, no, he is not doing this, he is not going to linger. Genji specifically told him not to. He forces his eyes back to Genji’s face. “Doctor Ziegler lives up to her image, performing miracles such as this.”

Genji grins at that, jarring and so incongruent with the dark conversation. “Do not let her hear you say that. She hates when people use that word.” His voice turns high and he butchers Angela’s Swiss accent. “Die wunder der modernen medizin!”

It startles a laugh out of Hanzo, and he relaxes his posture. “A modern miracle, then,” he allows.

Tugging his bag over to his side, Genji fishes through it before pulling out a tall thermos and two cups. He hands one over to a curious Hanzo before unscrewing the cap. “Tea. Not how I am sure you prefer it, but Jesse made a pitcher yesterday and he has a certain way of making it that works, somehow.”

A few cubes of ice tip over into his small cup as Genji pours the golden orange beverage. Hanzo detests cold tea, but is willing to make an exception since Genji went to the trouble. He takes a hesitant sip before jerking his head back at the overly sweet taste. “What is this?”

“Sweet tea. It takes some getting used to,” Genji laughs. “Another of his secret recipes. It is a traditional preparation of the southern United States, so I am told.”

Hanzo tries it again, letting the cool sweetness coat his tongue. He can still taste the bitter notes of black tea but it is softened, hidden under dissolved sugar that somehow tastes nothing like the clumsily mixed sweetened teas he has had in the past. There is even a hint of citrus there, making it refreshing rather than cloying. Still, the difference between this and the tea he prefers is unsettling. “I did not realize McCree was such a cook.”

“He always makes really strong flavored food when he cooks dinners,” Genji says, setting the thermos aside so he can drink his own tea. “Which is not often. Most of the others say he makes everything too spicy or too rich so he does not bother. But I love it. He makes things strong enough I can taste them.” He taps lightly at the metal right below his lower lip, or what is left of it.

“I take it more American foods?”

“Yeah, and Southwestern. Or Mexican? Latin foods? I am not sure what you would call it. He grew up in that culture, but there are subtleties there.” Genji chuckles. “A lot of peppers. It is an acquired taste.”

His thumb brushes the edge of the cup in his hands as he peers down into the sweet concoction, then lifts it to take another sip. The taste is growing on him the more he drinks. An acquired taste. Hanzo thinks that is a fairly accurate way of describing McCree in general.

“Did you never end up in America, in your travels?” Genji asks.

So far in their attempts to bring up the gaping chasm of time between the ill-fated night of Hanzo’s betrayal and their confrontation a decade later, the specifics have never come up. Usually they both jump straight to snide comments and accusations. Hanzo takes the opening readily. “Occasionally for a job. I was usually asked to go to New York or somewhere in that area. Los Angeles, once. Most of my...targets were in major cities.”

Genji lifts his cup to his mouth. “It is alright, brother, I know what you did while you were astray.”

Hanzo looks away, out at the beautiful scenery. “I avoided staying in America for long, and kept to the cities. It is harder to go unnoticed anywhere else there.”

“Do you still carry a guitar case for your bow?”

“It is the only way to do it,” Hanzo says, smiling slightly. “Did you spend time in America?”

“Not as much as I would like. It would be nice to see. Jesse always described the...openness of it. Where he is from, how vast everything is. Americans and their need for everything to be so large.”

Hanzo chuckles along with him. Yes, even McCree seems to encompass more space than he should in a room. “It was...New Mexico?” he asks, feigning ignorance. He knows exactly where McCree was born, memorized it from his files.

“Santa Fe,” Genji nods. “Shame he cannot go back.” There is a pang of sadness in Genji’s voice that resonates with Hanzo just as much as the words. He and Genji are in the same boat, after all. The only way they can venture back into Hanamura is in the dead of night or by brute force. It is why Hanzo limited his pilgrimage to once a year even if he misses his home dearly. He wonders if it will ever be safe for he and his brother to walk the streets of Hanamura again.

These are not the thoughts he wants to dwell on today. “I spent more time in Europe and Asia,” he says instead, drinking again. “It is so easy to travel between countries, and plenty of work.”

“But what of pleasure?” Genji asks, a jaunty little smile playing at his lips. “Surely you had a little fun without me.”

Hanzo opens his mouth but pauses to huff a laugh. “Perhaps.”

Genji claps his hands, amused. “Okay. Favorite experience that I do not know about. That is not sexual.”

“I would not share those experiences with you, little brother,” Hanzo replies, wrinkling his nose. Finishing off his cup he holds it out for Genji to refill it. Sweet tea is not so bad once you get used to it. He tips his head back, giving the question thought. “Four years ago. There is a lantern festival every year in Taiwan. Pingxi. I was traveling through on my way to a job, and it happened to be the night of the festival. There were thousands and thousands of lanterns going on for miles,” he says, putting his hand palm up in the air, fingers dancing, imagining the golden glow that filled the night sky. “I have never seen anything like it.”

“It sounds beautiful,” Genji says.

“What about you?”

“Holi,” he replies without having to give it any thought at all. “Last year. One of the visitors to the temple spoke of it, and I always wanted to go.” Genji chuckles at the memory. “It took months of needling to get Zenyatta to agree to go. He kept saying he could imagine it just fine, but no. He needed to see it with his own eyes. Sensors. People of all ages, omnics, all mixing together and everything bright and bold. Nothing was ever so colorful.”

Hanzo has heard of it, though never been. The festival of color, a riot of pigment thrown about by thousands in the streets. Hindu in origin, if he remembers correctly. “And what did Zenyatta think?”

Genji’s grin grows exponentially and he laughs. “After he quit complaining about how long it would take to clean out his insides of powder, he really enjoyed it.” He finishes off his drink and sets the cup aside. “We should go, someday.”

“We should?” Hanzo asks, bemused.

“Sure. Why not? You are not afraid to get a little dirty, are you?” he challenges, raising a crooked eyebrow.

Hanzo snorts, dismissive, smirking into his tea. “Hardly.”

“We could all go. Can you imagine the mess it would make of everyone? Of course, you and Jesse already did your own version yesterday.”

His fingers twitch self-consciously to tuck the stubborn strands of blue still hanging in his bangs behind his ear. He does not deem that worth commenting on, and takes another drink.

Genji’s suggestion does have its appeal. An occasion for everyone to be free, no reason to hide behind decorum or duty. He wonders if it would even be possible for some of the more recognizable members to go to something like that and be left in peace. How would they even get Winston to an event like that without getting harassed? “So, Holi, then, and Pingxi.”

“What?” Genji asks, confused.

“Places we will need to go together,” Hanzo clarifies, hope welling in him at the possibilities open to them now. “And Carnival in Venice. When I went through one year, it made me think of you--”

“You have been to Carnival?” his brother cuts in, perking up. “I went to that, once.”

Hanzo blinks. “You did? When?”

“Three years ago, on mission--”

“That is when I went! Three years ago!”

“No way! We were there for security detail for a diplomat.”

“I was there to assassinate the head of a human trafficking ring. He was going to be at the party for the duration and had an entourage with him--”

“I think I remember that! It happened down in the pavilion! We had to cut the festivities short to escort the diplomat to safety, and some of the others went in search of the assassin but never found anything...that was you? I cannot believe it!”

“We were...we were on the same street,” Hanzo breathes, hardly believing it himself. They were so close. It is possible, with him being dressed for the occasion and with their masks, he and Genji could have seen each other and never known it.

Genji lets out a laugh and grips Hanzo’s shoulder. “And Carnival, then! Though I would avoid letting anyone else know of your past exploits there, brother.”

Hanzo grins, downing the last of his tea and setting his own cup aside. “Where else?” He asks. May as well go all-in on the fantasy. “Where would you go?”

“Good question,” Genji says thoughtfully. “Peru would be nice to visit. We have only ever passed through headed to Brazil or Argentina. I would like to see the Incan temples, Machu Picchu, the ruins. You?”

He runs a hand through his beard, humming softly. “Aurora borealis.”

“What now?”

“Aurora borealis,” Hanzo repeats, smirking. “The northern lights. Surely you know--”

“Right, right, right,” Genji waves him off. “Big lights up north, yes, yes, you are such a nerd.”

“What! How is that nerdy?”

“It just is!” His brother’s grins wide and closes his eyes, tilting his head up to take in the heat of the sun. “So, Holi, Pingxi, Carnival, Peru, the Borealis, Hanamura, and Santa Fe. Sounds like a grand trip.”

Hanzo cuts his eyes over toward Genji, studying his upturned face. “So McCree is coming on this trip as well?” he asks, rhetorical, but Genji does not take it as such.

“Someone needs to watch our back in Hanamura, and we can watch his in Santa Fe. Besides, I think you would enjoy his company.” His eyes open and he levels Hanzo with a knowing gaze. “Right?”

He looks away, well aware of how telling the motion is but unable to stop the guilty movement. Not that he has anything to be guilty of, he insists to himself. Does everyone on this damn rock have to be so perceptive? He can feel his cheeks heat at the very thought.

Thankfully after a long pause Genji decides to drop whatever train of thought he had and shifts his weight forward. “Egg is eager to see her siblings again.”

“I am still not sure this is a good idea,” Hanzo replies warily, his hand coming up to palm the muscles of his forearm. Even as he says it he can feel the dragons curl warm and impatient within, as they have every time Hanzo and Genji come into close proximity. They have grown tired of his resistance, as eager to see their sister as Genji claims. “You are sure Egg will not attack?”

“I am certain,” Genji says assuredly. “This needs to happen.”

Without waiting on Hanzo’s confirmation, Genji curls his shoulders inward and a bright neon glow begins to shine from the seams of his armor. His eyes flash with the same otherworldly color and there, from the curve of his back, Egg’s serpentine body curls out into existence. At first like spun glass and hard light, her form solidifies as she slides into being to grow long and sleek in the air, moving like a snake through water. She was never as large as her brothers but she seems huge now, stronger than Hanzo ever remembers.

Egg’s tail finally pulls free and she curls around on herself to capture Hanzo in her gaze, golden eyes sharp and assessing. It is impossible not to be intimidated and Hanzo holds stone still as she gives him a critical once-over. If she deems him unworthy she could snap her jaws and that would be the end of him. There is a long pause, then she is flowing over him with smooth movements to curve around his body and brush her massive snout against his face, a nuzzle of greeting. Her ancient voice echoes in his head and soul so deep it rocks his core.

We missed you, young master.

We forgive you.

Do not leave us again.

Hanzo lets out a pent up breath, not even aware he had been holding it, and raises a shaking hand to stroke over Egg’s scales, peridot and tourmaline, hard as armor and soft as silk under his fingers. “I am sorry,” Hanzo says to the dragon, finding his voice.

It is past. Hush now, young master. Bring forth my brothers.

Not one to argue with an immortal dragon--at least not in this form--Hanzo extends his tattooed arm and summons Udon and Soba. Their twin bodies spill forth with a loud roar that startles the birds from the trees into flight. They do not hesitate to surround Egg and greet their long-lost sister.

They are larger than Egg but slimmer, tightly wound. Their appearance is an outward visual representation of his inner state of being, and they do not look as healthy as Egg. It has been that way for a long time. Hanzo nearly blushes at the comparison between the three. He feels suddenly exposed. But even as he watches, his dragons seem to grow before his very eyes. Their bodies seem fuller, solid, like they have not been emotionally starving, their scales shining just that much more vibrantly. The tufts of feathers behind their ears are fuller than they have been in years. Hanzo nearly wants to sob with relief, a weight lifting from his chest he had not known was there until it suddenly was no longer.

Udon branches off and surrounds Genji, nearly engulfing him in cerulean. Genji laughs, Udon’s bulk pushing him forward into Soba as they nuzzle and nip at him happily. “It is good to see you again,” Genji says, patting Soba down the bridge of his snout like one would a horse.

We missed you greatly, young master.

Forgive us, young master.

“Always,” Genji says, hugging Udon around the tree trunk of his body below his head. Soba wraps in a figure eight around the two brothers while Egg coils warm and solid along Hanzo’s back. The two men’s eyes meet over the tangle of green and blue. “Always.”

Hanzo swallows and somehow manages to find Genji’s hand. He cannot see it, but he can feel Genji’s fingers squeeze back.

 

---

 

The push cart’s wheels make high pitched squeaks with each rotation, just loud enough for Jesse to wince as the sound hits his ears. He needs to remember to oil those up once he gets it unloaded, but chances are he will forget until the next shipment then think the same thing all over again. Only a little further and the awful noise will stop.

There are other things he would rather be doing this morning, but he had two shipments containing munitions that he missed while he was on mission and he has no intention of letting it slip to three. Management of weaponry and ammunition is a responsibility he easily picked up after the recall. Blackwatch taught him the value of proper maintenance when it comes to all things that explode, so it is no trouble. If he is honest, it makes him feel safer knowing he is the one double checking that everything is in order for his fellow agents, that their equipment is not going to fail them in the field. It can be tedious but he enjoys it.

Still, his mind keeps thinking of the two trigger-happy assassins that headed out after breakfast that morning. He half considered stealing back to his room to gear up and follow, but he is not stupid enough to think he can tail the Shimada brothers without being spotted. His worries are unfounded, he keeps telling himself. They will be fine, he insists. They are adults, and they need time to work through things on their own.

If only he could stop thinking about it.

So munitions inventory and inspection, that is the order of the day. If he does a thorough check it should keep his mind occupied. Hard to think about anything else when you are counting that much. But if they are not back by dinner, he is marching right up that mountain and dragging the two back by the scruff.

Jesse punches in the code for the munitions room and pushes the cart through the reinforced door as soon as it opens. He is not two steps in before he realizes he is not alone. Nothing he can see, just a prickling feeling along his forearm and up his spine. The innate sense of knowing someone else is breathing in the same room as you. He knows the feeling anywhere. The main overhead lights are not on yet, but one of the single lights back further in the room glows yellow against the far wall and around some of the tall shelves. Hand settling on Peacekeeper, he cautiously calls out, “Who’s there?”

The gruff voice that responds is less than comforting. “It’s just me.”

It pulls a face from Jesse, annoyance flaring as he huffs and slaps the light panel, the bright white florescents springing to life overhead. Great. Just what he needed today. Gripping the handle of the cart so hard his good hand goes white-knuckled, he pushes through and lets the door slide shut behind him.

Jack Morrison looks just about as Jesse would have expected when he rounds the shelving and gets a look at him. Dressed down to a standard-issue black t-shirt with gray urban camos, Morrison is taking up half the back workspace. He must have dragged a storage box over to sit on, and he has a tarp spread out over a few crates with his gear strewn about. Well, laid out neat and organized, as strewn about as a man with that kind of military training gets with his weapons. Helix rockets are stacked on one crate in a neat pyramid, canisters for his biotic emitter on another. His pulse rifle is currently disassembled on the tarp before him and Morrison is meticulously cleaning the parts with a flannel cloth. He glances up when Jesse comes into view, his tactical visor at his side and within easy reach.

“That better not be my explosive shells you’re sittin’ on,” Jesse says by way of greeting. The cart he pushed down earlier this morning was a hell of a lot heavier. Now that it seems Bastion is going to be sticking around for a while, Winston had the appropriate ammunitions brought up from storage. Another thing for Jesse to keep track of. Not that he minds, but damn if Bastion’s equipment is not heavy as hell.

“Over there,” Morrison replies, gesturing at the large crates pushed against one of the shelving units.

He goes back to his cleaning and Jesse knows that he should just ignore the older man and do what he came to do, but his mouth gets the better of him. “You can’t do that in your room?” he asks bluntly, turning his back on Morrison and ripping into one of the boxes.

“I could,” Morrison says carefully, “but you aren’t in my room.”

Jesse’s hands slow and his shoulders tense perceptively beneath his serape. He glares at the shelves before him, stacks of explosives carefully arranged and labeled. “I wondered who would be first to crack.” Morrison grunts in agreement, and Jesse sighs, turning back to look at him. “I ain’t apologizin’ for deckin’ you,” he says.

Morrison tilts his head up and looks at him, the bruise along the side of his face faded to a dull purple-green. “It was a good punch.”

The little pulse of pleasure at the praise is not something Jesse will ever acknowledge. He nods, because yes, it was a good punch, thank you, and grabs the box he opened. After a little rearranging of crates he gets set up across from Morrison with the tablet he uses to record inventory. This box has the ammo for Lena’s pulse pistols in it. Small but abundant. He starts counting them out in sets of forty.

Jesse does not like to think of himself as the stereotypical testosterone-driven tough guy that some might assume of someone such as himself. If asked for an example he would happily refer you to Exhibit A seated across from him for that. Jesse happens to be pretty in-touch with his emotions, and would gladly have a good cry if the occasion called for it. But he never quite learned how to talk with Morrison without it becoming adversarial, and he certainly never learned how to have a meaningful relationship with the man. Part of him suspects Jesse’s loyalty to Gabe had a good deal to do with that, but whatever the reason they never clicked. It makes starting this conversation all the more difficult.

So, he just neglects to do so, instead keeping his eyes down on his task and his jaw tight. Let Morrison figure it out. He is not the one that fucked up so royally.

He does not owe Jack Morrison a single God-damned thing.

“I can practically hear your teeth grinding from here,” Morrison says after a prolonged silence.

Jesse does not look up, but a muscle jumps in his cheek. Thirty-three, thirty-four, thirty-five.

“We need to be able to work together, McCree.”

“I can work with you just fine. I’ve worked with worse. Not many, but...” Thirty-six, thirty-seven, thirty-eight, thirty-nine, forty. Tally mark. One, two, three--

“We both know it’s not that easy. We have to be able to talk to each other.”

“So talk,” Jesse says, stubbornly not looking up at the other man. The following silence lets him know he was entirely correct in assuming Morrison is just as lost on where to begin as himself. But he is not about to cut the guy a break.

Morrison puts down the primary barrel for the pulse rifle and picks up part of the housing. A delay while he tries to figure out a safe topic. “You did good in Honduras,” he starts. “Not everyone would have thought to check the floors like that. Catching that trap door--”

“No,” Jesse snaps, swift and sharp. “No. Don’t come in here talking to me like you still have Commander tacked onto your name. I’m not your subordinate .” The word comes out with all the disdain Jesse can muster while still keeping a tight leash on his anger. “Skip the platitudes and try again, a little less condescending if you please.”

“I know you’re mad--”

“Mad doesn’t really cover it.”

“Look, I made a mistake, alright?” Morrison says, bracing his forearms on his knees.

“I like how you say it all singular,” Jesse retorts.

Mistakes , and I know they were big ones.” He drops the casing he was working on down on top of the rest of the parts, haphazard and unlike him, so that he can give Jesse his complete attention. “You think I don’t know how bad I messed up?”

Jesse scoops up another set of forty bullets and tucks them in place, tapping another tally in the system before looking up at Morrison hard. “Yeah, I’m sure you know. You had plenty of time to think about it wherever the fuck you ran off to for the past six years, huh?”

Morrison drops his gaze momentarily and that is just the tick of guilt to get Jesse really going. “Everyone thought you were dead. Just like you wanted them to, huh? Even Angela, and everyone that was half-conscious saw her bawlin’ her eyes out at your funeral. Was broadcast all over the world, every network, guess you must have missed it. Didn’t even have a body to bury, though. How convenient. Where you been, huh? You and your one man army?”

The other man takes a breath, probably counting to five on the inside, before answering with a lot more calm than Jesse wants to hear right now. “I was injured. Someone I trusted a great deal had just tried to kill me, with half his team. I had no way of knowing who I could trust, and I still don’t. I needed to be sure--”

“Don’t give me that bullshit! You couldn’t have gone to Angela? Or Torbjörn? Reinhardt? Hell, Winston? Of all the people you abandoned, you left Winston thinking you were nothin’ but a smear in a crater!” A sudden thought occurs to him and he momentarily sees red. “Don’t tell me Ana knew about this.”

“You know Ana is--no!” Morrison blurts when he sees the way Jesse’s face contorts. “No, she didn’t know! I only just found out about her a few weeks ago! She didn’t know, I swear!”

He will still be having a stern word with the woman the next time they speak, but at least the brief flare of additional betrayal dies as soon as it is lit. “Because if I find out she’s been runnin’ around on your little crusade after all this time--”

“No, she didn’t know, and I didn’t know about her. And when we spoke she didn’t tell me you knew she was alive, either.” The soldier is trying to calm him, Jesse knows, but something about Morrison’s gravel-rough voice just makes everything worse. “Maybe I should have come back, but I didn’t. It wasn’t safe. Overwatch wasn’t safe, you know that.”

It is the truth. How he hates hearing it. “You ran,” Jesse hisses, eyes flashing angrily, latching onto that fact like a wolf with prey and ripping into it. “You ignored all the warning signs. You didn’t even want to acknowledge there was a problem, even when it was laid out for you, even when I fucking told you! I told you Gabe was in trouble! I told you Gabe was turning! I told you and you did nothing! And then, when shit hit the fan you fucking ran. I fucking told you!

“I know!” Morrison shouts as Jesse slings up out of his perch on the crate, chest heaving with anger. “I know, I know, Jesse, you were right! You were right.”

The urge to let out a guttural scream is great. Jesse grits his teeth in a painful snarl, fist balled up like he might strike Morrison. The air is getting thin, the scent of smoke, throat tight, and this, he should have anticipated this, another one of the infinite reasons they should have just politely ignored this and stayed mad at each other. He turns his back on Morrison and grips the shelf above his head hard enough for the unit to shake, squeezing his eyes shut on the prickling heat. His left arm is nothing but flame and pain, but it is secondary to the phantom restrictions that threaten to bring him to his knees.

Morrison is talking, calling his name in a worried voice, moving to step around their makeshift work station. “I’m fine,” he chokes out, forcing his eyes open, aware that he sounds anything but fine. He says it again anyway, willing the tremor in his voice to take a hike. “I’m fine.”

This time, his voice is softer. “No,” Morrison says. “No, you’re not.”

Jesse forces himself to take a few slow, cleansing breaths of cool air conditioning. Reminds himself of where he is, when he is, who he is with. That last one does not do much to calm him, but at least it is better than his memories. It is a sorry state when you would rather be in Jack Morrison’s company. It actually makes him bark a humorless laugh, digging his flesh fingers into his eye sockets to try and relieve some pressure there. “You’re not the only one that made mistakes,” he says.

And then the question he had been dreading. “What happened, Jesse?”

It is on the tip of his tongue to tell him. If anyone in this world would understand, it would be Jack. But his own failure is a shame he is not ready to share.

“Not today,” Jesse says, more to himself than to the room. He takes another sharp inhale before turning, hoping he does not look as shaken as he feels. Scrubbing a hand over his beard, he looks back at Morrison standing poised for action, though the older man looks to be on shaky ground himself.

“For what it’s worth, and I know it’s not worth much,” Morrison says sincerely, “I am sorry.” Jesse blinks at him, and he continues. “You were right, about everything. I should have listened to you. I won’t make the same mistake twice.”

Jesse blinks again. Well. Shit. A genuine apology from Jack Morrison. Part of him is tempted to go check outside, make sure no pigs are flying through the air, no freak snowstorms to signal that Hell has truly frozen over. He does not say that, because as much as he would like to hate Morrison for all eternity, even he is not that petty. At least he is trying to make up for his transgressions now. “Yeah, alright,” Jesse says, stepping forward and offering a hand.

Morrison hesitates just a moment as if he was not expecting the gesture, then clasps back, strong and meaningful. They shake, and then Morrison’s icy blue eyes give him the once-over. “I see you went full Man With No Name.”

Jesse’s eyes flick over him to give his own assessment. “I see you went full Heartbreak Ridge.”

“Good movie.”

“Well, it is Clint.”

Morrison grunts again, as well he should. Eastwood is a badass. On that note, he tugs Morrison in for a one-armed-hug pat-on-the-back that gets returned equally as awkwardly. Very manly, Jesse thinks with an internal snicker. Manly and appropriately touching, and then they are both separating because Jesse may be the hugging type but Morrison looks like he might jump out of his own skin with all this lovey-dovey crap.

“Hurry up and get your shit cleaned, you can help me with inventory,” Jesse says, moving back to the whole reason he is in the munitions cage in the first place.

Stepping over one of the crates, Morrison takes a seat again and grabs up the flannel and another random gun part. One of the pistons. He begins to scrub. “Winston wants to start sending us on missions together,” he says. Trust him to always fall back on work in the wake of an awkward conversation. “Hard infiltration.”

“As long as you remember that the hierarchy ain’t really a hierarchy anymore, we’ll be fine,” Jesse replies. He could hardly stand Morrison barking orders at him when he was a teen, he cannot imagine how irritating it would be now. “He have anything lined up?”

“Yeah. Some possible Talon bases we could hit.”

“Good to hear. I hate waitin’ on Talon to make a move. ‘Bout time we start pushin’ back ourselves.”

“And he wants to go over those papers you found with us. He thinks he might have a lead.”

Jesse trains his face not to show too much interest. “What kind of lead?”

“Some correlation in the medical records. Nothing time sensitive. There’s still some details he’s trying to work out.”

Nothing conclusive, then. He tries not to feel disappointed. Ignoring the nagging voice that suggests now would be a good time to bring up his Reyes-is-Reaper theory, he scoops up the last forty bullets from the table and places them all neatly back in the box, confirming his count and putting them on the shelf next to three identical boxes. The next box has bullets for Angela’s Cadeceus blaster. Not something Jesse has to inventory often, but he has been meaning to get on her about her target practice.

They work in silence for a few minutes before he allows himself to say what he maybe should have said already. “It’s good to see you alive. Asshole.”

Morrison’s craggy face finally creases into something resembling a smile. “You too, punk.” He starts to reassemble his rifle. “You still make that chili of yours? Cause I haven’t had any as good in years.”

Jesse smirks. “Yeah, but you don’t get to bitch about it tearing up your stomach, old man.”

“I have an ulcer, McCree, lay off.”

“And we ain’t drinkin’ that shit beer you like, neither.”

He scoffs at Jesse, shaking his head. “I’m too old for this shit.”

“Oh my God,” Jesse laughs. “A Lethal Weapon reference? Really? There might be hope for you after all.” He starts to count out the bullets in sets of twenty. “So, seen any good movies lately?”

 

---

 

“Listen, I’m not sayin’ it’s a bad movie.”

“That is exactly what it sounds like you are saying.”

“No, all I’m sayin’ is I think A Fistful of Dollars is better.”

“How you can even think such a thing is beyond me.”

“Hey, you ain’t seen it yet! I’d bet my hat that once you do, you’ll be singin’ a different tune.”

“I am not certain you could survive without that tattered hat.”

“Oh! Now you’re just bein’ mean! Disparaging my hat like that.” Hanzo watches as Jesse snatches it off the back of the couch and holds it to his heart, patting the battered leather and looking mock-scandalized.

“If it means so much, you should not wager it. For I would surely win.” He punctuates the statement by tossing a piece of popcorn in the air and catching it in his mouth.

Yojimbo is reaching the climax on the screen, Sanjuro just learning from the coffin maker that Gonji was captured trying to sneak provisions out of town for his recovery. Taking up the sword of a dead samurai, he stalks off for the final confrontation with Ushitora, his brothers, and their gang.

Hanzo and Jesse have been half-paying attention for most of the movie. It certainly is not that it is a bad movie. Far from it, Yojimbo is one of the better movies they have watched to date and it most certainly is a classic, and since A Fistful of Dollars is a direct remake of it they obviously have to watch them back-to-back. But they have both been far too chatty this evening to give it their complete attention. This is not really surprising considering they have not had a chance to talk for a few days.

First there was the reconnaissance mission that whisked Hanzo away the moment he and Genji returned from their hike up the mountain. What should have been easy scouting turned into a full-on chase through the back alleys of Buenos Aires, and never has Hanzo better appreciated Lúcio’s speed and ability to ride narrow walls. Between the two of them the unexpected target was apprehended and turned over to the proper authorities, and Hanzo had to wait an hour and a half before Lúcio was free from signing autographs to get on the transport back to the Watchpoint.

Then not twelve hours later Hanzo, Reinhardt, Angela, and Fareeha were on a flight to Copenhagen to participate in negotiations with the hope of making Overwatch a welcome presence within Denmark’s borders. Well, Reinhardt and Angela handled the negotiations; Fareeha and Hanzo handled security, working with the guards of the Parliament representatives and the monarch. This arrangement suited Hanzo just fine. He is still considered a wanted man in some circles, after all, and even though he has experience with peace talks they were fundamentally more of a criminal nature. He cannot very well threaten retaliation to the governing body of a country like he could a rival cartel.

Today had been a day off, and he suspects Winston is throwing he and Genji a bone because Genji also found himself free from responsibilities. It took little persuasion before they were both out the door again, exploring a different secluded part of the island and this time actually getting around to that meditation they had planned the last time. The dragons had played through the trees, chasing each other in winding paths through the trees and up into the sky, scaring some of the local wildlife in the process but luckily nothing got nibbled on. They built on their previous trip, looking to the future rather than the past, and the whole day left Hanzo feeling better than he has felt in a long time.

And more than eager to share it all with McCree. The gunslinger had been on mission in Australia for the entirety, along with Lena, Winston, Torbjörn, Morrison, and Zenyatta. It seems the outlaw junker Fawkes and his enforcer Rutledge made to return to the Outback, for what no one seems to know, but left a trail of destruction in their wake. As a rule Overwatch tries to avoid entering the Outback proper--the radiation still being so strong in some areas, swarmed by outlaws in others--but the two managed to plow through one of the peaceful sanctuaries on the outer edge. By the time Overwatch arrived there was not much left to salvage but plenty of evidence as to which way they headed. Unfortunately for the team they came up empty.

Hanzo could tell immediately upon their return that McCree was disheartened by the mission’s failure and set about taking his mind off it by suggesting they get started on a new movie. And now that the paint has had a chance to dry and the fumes have aired out, they could break in their movie room. Hanzo had never seen his mood shift so rapidly.

It is that time of year where the weather is starting to shift and the halls of the Watchpoint have turned cold, a few weeks before they turn on the heat. McCree brought a blanket with him and split their customary bucket of popcorn in two so they could sit facing each other, the blanket and their tangled legs between them. Whatever sense of decorum or propriety about personal space fell away within the first act.

“You are just upset that the only gun in Yojimbo is wielded by a villain,” Hanzo says, prosthetics shifting under the shared blanket between them to nudge at McCree. His prosthetics are more advanced than McCree’s mechanical arm; they do not transmit tactile sensation as sharply as real nerves, but Hanzo can still feel the pressure of McCree’s legs against his own. He has not yet decided if he hopes McCree knows that or not.

McCree rubs back with his socked foot along Hanzo’s calf and flaps his hat at the archer. “Oh, hush. I’m upset cause the guy they had usin’ it looked like a right ninny. Did you see that overacting? Cause I sure did. Man looked like he couldn’t control his damn eyebrows.”

Hanzo opens his mouth to retort but pauses, then bites his lip. It was pretty bad. “I will give you that.”

They both turn their heads to watch the final battle, Hanzo shoveling popcorn into his mouth without thought. McCree finished his bowl some time ago, still hungry despite a full dinner. Sanjuro is making quick work of the gang members on the screen, Unosuke lying face-down in the dirt, the pistol just out of his grasping reach. At least now that the character is bleeding from a dagger to the arm, he is no longer making such ridiculous faces.

“So,” Hanzo says, sneakily side-eying McCree for feedback. “Genji thinks you make your popcorn with sugar added.”

No flash of concern or alarm on McCree’s face, only the twist of a smirk as he watches the screen. “Oh yeah?”

“Hmm. But there is no sugary crust to any of the pieces, even after they cool. So I disagree.” He scrutinizes McCree’s reaction to that, trying to discern any information at all.

McCree side-eyes him right back, amused, and sidesteps the comment entirely. “That what you two chattin’ about up there while you’re supposed to be meditatin’? My popcorn recipe?” He bends forward, suddenly much closer and in Hanzo’s space, but only to snag a few of the kernels left at the bottom of Hanzo’s bowl to eat for himself.

“It might have come up,” Hanzo replies, annoyed at the little leap his heart gave when McCree was leaning so close.

“Just glad I’m on your mind, sug,” McCree says smugly. “You know it might be about time I passed it on.”

Hanzo perks up but tries not to look too hopeful. This might be a teasing trick, after all. It would not be the first time McCree dangled the recipe before him just to snatch it away. “It does seem a waste to keep it all to yourself. Almost selfish,” Hanzo prompts.

His companion has to school his features so he does not laugh. Hanzo likes that he plays along. “That is a mighty fine point, Hanzo, a mighty fine point. Would hate to be selfish.” McCree taps his fingers along the back of the couch. “And, if I was to share it, it would only make sense to give it to someone that shares my passion a good movie snack and good movies.”

“That sounds reasonable. Does anyone come to mind?” Hanzo asks, leading.

McCree looks thoughtful. “You know, Morrison does like old war movies--ack!”

The gunslinger gets a face full of pillow as Hanzo takes it up to beat him a few times. Blocking with his metal arm, McCree grabs his own pillow and hits Hanzo back, knocking his hair askew. The bowl gets knocked free and hits the ground, rolling across the floor and scattering the last few bites of popcorn along the carpet. “McCree!” Hanzo cries, whacking him once more for good measure. “Look what you did!”

“Ah, whoops.” The bowl rolls right past McCree and settles beyond the couch, well out of Hanzo’s reach and just out of McCree’s. Hanzo huffs, shifting his weight with the intention of getting up to fetch it and cleaning their mess, when McCree says, “I got it.” Then Hanzo watches in mute horror as McCree rolls his left sleeve up, flicks open three hidden release hatches, and detaches his prosthetic arm. Holding it in his good hand, he twists at the waist and arches his body sideways over the arm of the couch. With surprising accuracy, McCree manages to hook the bowl with the metal fingers and lift it back to his lap in one fell swoop. He turns and settles back, happy with this accomplishment even as Hanzo is gaping at this turn of events.

“Are you really so lazy that you would take off your arm just to avoid getting off the couch?” he asks, incredulous.

“What’s the good of having a fake arm if you can’t use it to grab stuff that’s out of reach?” McCree counters, pushing his sleeve up to reattach the prosthetic.

It gives Hanzo a quick look at the stump left of his real arm. Long furrows of scar tissue reach upward from the end, deep and uneven with missing muscle mass. Discoloration marks what is left, dark tan marked with silvery-pink gouges. The skin at the end is healed in zigzag patterns from whatever medical intervention McCree received for the wound. It screams violent and destructive. Whatever happened there was far from the clean cut of Hanzo’s own removed limbs. Before he can gather anything else McCree is hooking the arm back in place and fiddling with the latches.

“Anyway, like I was sayin’, maybe next time I’ll teach you--”

An alert sounds in stereo from both their pockets as well as the alarm from the intercoms overhead, the emergency signal of an impending mission. Hanzo quickly manages to get his communicator in his ear while McCree fumbles with getting his arm completely reattached. “Hanzo reporting. I have McCree here with me.”

There is a chorus of other voices over the line before a rough one cuts through. “Morrison here. Gear up and meet on the tarmac in fifteen. All hands on deck. McCree?”

“McCree here,” he replies next to Hanzo, having put his communicator in his ear before shoving his feet into his boots and lacing up. They cut to a private line after that, and Hanzo does not wait to hear what it is Morrison has to say from McCree’s end. He is already bolting down the hall toward his rooms, feet clacking on the metal floor. He flies past Hana running the opposite direction, and has to dodge Reinhardt before he gets knocked into a wall.

Hanzo strips out of his loungewear as soon as he clears his bedroom door, flinging the baggy shirt and flannel pants off and dressing in his combat clothes in moments. He quickly ties his hair tight on top of his head and does a mental inventory of the contents of his go-bag, though it is hardly necessary. Being with Overwatch is a lot like surviving on his own when it comes to being prepared to run at a moment’s notice. The only difference is Hanzo does not need to have all his possessions, just what he might need for a few days’ combat. He slings the bag over his shoulder along with his quiver, grabs his storm bow, and is out the door again in under five.

Genji falls into step beside him about halfway down the hall, black bag over one shoulder and his katana in hand. “This must be big,” he says, the two taking the stairs down and headed out into the evening air. “We have not had an all-hands since the recall.”

“What of the others already on mission?” Hanzo asks.

“We will have to do without. Did Morrison say where we were going?”

Hanzo shakes his head as they walk up the ramp. The loading zone is already filling with people, Angela and Winston talking hurriedly over a tablet between them, Morrison having Hana’s meka moved quickly onto one of the carriers, Bastion walking out from one of the garage areas with Satya. Hana comes running up behind them in her battlesuit followed by Reinhardt in his armor, limping slightly as he tries to get his leg plate on without it pinching his the hair above his socks.

“Hey, be careful with that!” Hana calls, rushing over to make sure her meka gets on without incident. Unlikely considering Hanzo has seen it take a rocket center mass and it only knock her back a few feet.

“Everyone load up, we’ll brief in the air,” Winston says over the chatter. He has his Tesla cannon in one arm and Angela is carrying both their bags on board.

Hanzo and Genji follow suit, and soon everyone is strapping into jump seats for takeoff. But glancing around Hanzo notices something off. “Where is McCree?”

“He’s not coming,” Morrison says, buckling himself in place.

“What? Why?” Hana asks, the others all looking up in confusion.

Winston, who cannot very well strap into the human-made seats, wraps a meaty hand around one of the loops hanging down to brace himself. “He is standing down this mission.”

“Like hell I am,” McCree announces as he jogs up the ramp, his own go-bag over his shoulder and chest armor glowing under his serape.

Morrison curses under his breath and makes to unbuckle again. “McCree--”

“Can it, I’m goin’, you ain’t stoppin’ me.” He makes a point of slinging his bag under one of the empty seats and glares at the others, boots heavy as he makes his way to buckle in.

“It’s too dangerous,” Winston insists, trying to be reasonable. “Deadlock has a bounty on your head bigger than ever, and you’ve done yourself no favors with the other gangs in the area. Not to mention the United States government still wants words with you about that train robbery. You’ll be too much of a distraction.”

“If we’re dealin’ with Deadlock, you need someone there that understands them better than anyone. That’d be me,” McCree says, hooking a thumb at himself. “You don’t want me seen? I’ll be as unassumin’ as a cottontail. But you ain’t leavin’ me behind.”

“It would make sense to use all the resources available to us,” Satya says reasonably from her position near the front. She does not look like she particularly cares one way or the other, but her sensible nature will not allow her to not contribute. “Since it seems Agent McCree has...unique insights.”

“Yeah, see? Satya knows what’s up,” McCree says, pointing at her knowingly. He shoves the buckle on his harness closed with a resounding click.

Winston huffs, irritated. “Very well. But you are not to leave the carrier.”

McCree squawks. “What? But--”

“You are here for consultation only,” Winston states firmly, sounding more like a Commander than most of them have heard before. “We aren’t going to risk you when there are so many here to do the job. You stay on the carrier or we’ll drop you out the hatch with a parachute and bus fare. Are we clear?”

There’s a long moment where the two glare at each other but McCree relents with a tap to the brim of his hat. “Only cause I know you’ll do it, too, you--whoa!”

They all lurch suddenly as the carrier jerks up and out from the launch pad, and Fareeha calls from the pilot’s seat, “Sorry! Sorry, little bit of turbulence.” Judging from the tone of her voice, it is more likely it was just to get them all to shut up so she could get to flying.

Genji glances to his left and catches Hanzo holding onto his seat handles with a death grip, eyes wide and face ashen. “Do not tell me you are still afraid of flying.”

“I am not afraid,” Hanzo hisses, willing Genji to shut up. Besides, afraid is such a strong word. “Just unsettled. In my stomach. It must have been all the popcorn earlier.”

His claim does not convince Genji in the slightest, his brother patting his knee reassuringly. “Do not fret; Fareeha is one of the best pilots we have. Second only to Lena. We will get you on the ground in no time.”

They wait until the carrier is up to altitude and on its way across the Atlantic before everyone unbuckles to move around the hold. Winston has them gather around one of the screens to go over mission parameters, Athena bringing up a map of the United States. There is a bold red line indicating a railway system that cuts jaggedly across the southern half of the country and up the coast before jutting out across the Pacific.

“Twelve hours ago the BNSD Intercontinental Number 12 was traveling through New Mexico when an explosive detonated on a bridge over Deadlock Gorge. The train derailed, crashing into the town below.” On screen it zooms into a satellite view of the gorge, heavy black smoke obscuring half the town. It scrolls through several images, the jumping of smoke indicating time skips. Through the haze they can see something round and metal being moved from the crash site. “Our images show a group of armed gunmen did a sweep of the train after it landed. The perpetrators then moved a large object from rail car D onto a transport and through town into a cave system out of sight. Based on the footage and considering there hasn’t been an immediate gunfight, we can safely assume Deadlock are the ones involved.”

“Any survivors? Hostages?” Angela asks.

“None that we can confirm,” Winston says with a shake of the head. The medic brings a hand up to her face, balling her fist to press against her mouth and Genji puts a comforting hand to her back.

“What is it?” Reinhardt asks, leaning forward to squint at the screen with his one good eye and pushing Hanzo and Hana forward a step or two.

“Satellite footage shows a large explosive device.” Winston taps on his tablet and the screen zooms in on the object, but with all the smoke it is too hard to tell what they are looking at. “Athena’s scans compared to other known devices put it as a CEB-5 Warhead. Sources on the ground confirm.”

Fareeha, who put the carrier on auto-pilot and is now looking from around Satya’s shoulder, lets out an expletive under her breath. “That thing will wipe everything off the map in a two-hundred mile radius.”

Across from her, Hana shifts uncomfortably on her feet. “What are the chances of them setting it off by accident?”

“Unlikely,” she replies. “It has a four-step arming process. They can’t just drop it and it blow.”

“Well, that’s a relief,” Hana mutters.

Off to the side, Bastion twists slightly and tips his head. Weep-woo weep-woo, woo-bee-boo, beep beep beep? Woo-ooo-ooop dun dun dweep-dweep-chrrrrr?

“Who is claiming the bomb? Where did it come from and where was it going?” Satya asks, frowning a little as she tries to interpret.

“Yes, and why has this not been on the news?” Angela asks, crossing her arms.

“That’s part of the problem,” Winston replies with a frown of his own. “It is US manufactured but for whatever reason they are not claiming it, going so far as to keep the entire incident out of news circulation. With how remote Deadlock Gorge is, they are having an easy time of it.”

“So, something shady,” Hana huffs. “Typical.”

“It’s possible, but there could be another reason,” Morrison says. “Military facilities have been hit hard recently--”

“You have done a few of those hits yourself,” Fareeha drawls pointedly, and Morrison only pauses long enough to tip his head in her direction before continuing.

“Weapons facilities more than anything. And not just the United States, but Russia, China, South Korea. With tensions as high as they are and Talon growing more aggressive, losing a bomb would be a show of incompetence that a country couldn’t afford.”

“Wait,” Hana says, holding up a hand. “Are you trying to say that someone just walked off with a warhead, and then someone else might have stolen that warhead, and no one’s claiming it because it would be embarrassing?!”

Dun dun boop boop. They do not need Satya’s translation to hear Bastion’s ominous sarcasm in those notes.

Genji nods. “You got that right, buddy.”

“We don’t know how the CEB ended up on the train, and no one seems inclined to share. That’s something we can sort out later; top priority is getting the warhead out of their hands,” Winston says, moving on to another screen that shows an overview of Deadlock’s canyon base. Blue lines branch off from different parts with information about possible access points and a block of text at the side pops up about the gang itself. “There are two entrances on the ground level into the canyon, here and here. In addition there is an access vent for ventilation that feeds down from above. Hanzo will take that access vent to cover us and keep us informed on their movements while we split into two teams. After--”

“Hold up,” comes McCree’s drawl. He has been watching and listening to this whole conversation without input, but now he tips his hat up to look at them with an unimpressed frown. “You ain’t suggestin’ that we take the bomb by force, are you?”

Morrison and Winston exchange an uncertain look, the soldier frowning. “That is kind of what we do, McCree.”

“If we make a move soon, they won’t be expecting us,” Winston adds. “Athena’s numbers put them as manageable.” As if to reinforce Winston’s claims the computer pops up on the screen an estimated number of gang members and a partial list of names, some with locations attached.

“Y’all have lost your damn mind,” McCree states. Before Winston can retort, he steps forward and reaches up to tap the screen himself. A box highlights the estimated roster number for the gang and he types a two in front of the fifty-eight. “That’s a bit more accurate.”

A murmur rises through the group around him. Morrison lowers the arms that had been crossed over his chest, too surprised to be gruff. “How did you come up with that?”

“What’d you think I’ve been doin’ the past six years, holdin’ up a bar and gettin’ drunk?” McCree points at Genji when his vents release like he is about to speak. “Nothin’ from the peanut gallery.”

“You have been doing reconnaissance,” Hanzo says, glancing between the screen and McCree, suitably impressed. Not that he will express it here. “How many would be in their base at this time?”

“Hard to say,” McCree says, looking unhappy with his lack of knowledge. “But with a haul this big? They’ll have called in extra men. There’ll be a hundred there, if we’re lucky. Wager one-fifty to be safe.”

“It’s possible,” Reinhardt starts, optimistic as always, but Hanzo shakes his head.

“We’re skilled, but not that skilled. Not with a force that size in their own base. They will be at the advantage and have greater numbers. It would be foolish to try.”

“We could sneak in,” Genji suggests. “Through the vents, like you said.”

“There would be no way for you to get the bomb out without drawing attention. It will take a vehicle to move it.” Winston brings his attention back to McCree. “You’ve been keeping tabs on Deadlock better than Athena. Anything you can bring to the table would be helpful.”

McCree stares hard at the screen but Hanzo can tell he is not looking at the contents but sorting through his own thoughts. “What does Athena got on their current membership? Got names and faces?”

Instead of bringing it all up, Winston just hands the tablet over to McCree so he can scroll through the information himself. It only takes him a few minutes to find what he is looking for. With a swipe of his finger, a set of mugshots and personal information gets moved to the main screen and everyone leans in again to look. “This here’s Mitch Soler. Current head of Deadlock, has been for about five years now. He took over after Ole’ Kurt Botwright passed.” Hanzo is a bit surprised; the man on the screen looks barely older than McCree himself. Maybe a bit harder around the eyes and his blonde hair is cut short and even. And his five o’clock shadow is not near as impressive as McCree’s scruffy beard. “After Overwatch hit ‘em hard, Kurt let things go wild. No structure for a while. When Mitch took over he whipped them boys into shape and got operations movin’ again. He’s a hardass if I ever saw one, but he’s got an ego on ‘em. Don’t like people askin’ a lot of questions.”

He flicks his fingers, making Mitch’s picture shrink and enhancing the next mugshot. This is of a woman older than Soler with skin a shade darker than Satya’s that is beginning to show signs of wrinkles. Her medium length black hair tousled, lower lip is split and there are bruises starting to form around her left eye, all pointing to a recent fight. A tattoo spiderwebs creeps up the side of her neck with what looks to be roses and skulls up into her hairline. Unlike Mitch, this woman looks nothing but amused with having her mugshot taken. “Ruth Maddox. Soler’s second in command. She’s been around since I was a recruit. Meanest woman you’ll ever meet, and that’s if you don’t cross her. Ambitious, but patient. You piss her off and she might not get you back that day, but she’ll hold a grudge till the day you die.”

“Charming,” Fareeha murmurs, Satya humming in agreement.

“Maddox and Soler brought Deadlock back from extinction,” McCree says. “And they worked together fine all these years because they had a similar outlook on how things should be run. But now that they’re gettin’ big again, they ain’t seein’ things the same way anymore. Mitch likes to keep things rollin’ smooth, no use rockin’ the boat. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it attitude, you know? But Ruth, like I said, is ambitious.” He nods at the woman on the screen. “Wouldn’t surprise me if the bomb heist was her idea.”

“It is bold,” Hanzo says. “I imagine Soler would see it as too bold, bringing too much attention right to their door. Our attention.”

McCree nods. “You got it. It’s the sorta plan he never would’ve agreed to. And it ain’t the first time she’s made decisions without consultin’ with him.” He looks over at Morrison and something passes between them, silent communication, and Hanzo remembers that Overwatch knows a thing or two about infighting.

“Right,” Morrison grunts. “We’ll have to take advantage of it, somehow. Would you say this Maddox has a lot of support from inside Deadlock? Enough to make a run at taking over?”

“Ain’t no tellin’ for sure, but she’s got to have a good chunk behind her to pull off somethin’ like this. Even if they’re just in it for the thrill.”

“If we can push her to turn on Soler, then the infighting might be the distraction we need to get the bomb,” Morrison says, but Winston is already waving that off.

“There’s no time to set up something like that. The longer that bomb is in their hands, the more time they have to find a buyer; we’re already getting intel on Deadlock letting the criminal underworld know they have a major ordnance for sale. We can be sure Talon knows about it, too, and two dozen other terrorist groups as well.”

“Can we get someone on the inside to act as one of Deadlock?” Fareeha asks.

McCree shakes his head. “You can’t just waltz up and say, ‘Hey, I want to join your illegal organization even though you’ve never heard of me. Oh, by the way, can I see that there super secret bomb I shouldn’t know anything about?’” Then his face goes still and thoughtful for a moment before turning into a devious smirk. “Unless.”

Oh, that face cannot mean anything but trouble.

 

---

 

It takes less than an hour for Athena to hijack the online presence of one Eugene “Slim” Dunne, Deadlock gang member and general laze-about. Hardly a guy worth mentioning in a group as big and impressive as Deadlock, based out of a one-horse town in the middle of nowhere Arizona that is nothing but a pitstop between Deadlock Gorge and their operations in Texas. But even though he and his crew do not contribute much to the gang as a whole, the one thing Slim Dunne is good at is finding able-bodied mercenaries that work cheap. Luckily for Overwatch, Slim has gone fully digital in his pursuits of not having to lift a finger, so most of his work is through email. And he is scared shitless of going back to prison.

An anonymous tip-off of a (phony) police raid headed his way has Dunne in the wind, so Winston has no trouble after that using his digital profile to pose as the ever-helpful Slim. It is not the cleanest hack and if Deadlock took the time to check on their outlying members more often it would be obvious, but they have bigger things to deal with right now. Besides, time is of the essence and they need to get people in position yesterday.

A quick correspondence via email and text with Slim’s contacts in Deadlock Gorge has them expecting a team of guns-for-hire specifically to help guard their big score. Some new outfit from back east looking to make some money without asking a lot of questions. Just the sort that Deadlock would need right now.

Now they just need a group that looks the part.

Which brings them to Austin, one of the few cities in Texas where Deadlock has been unable to establish a presence, and a little clothing store called Lucky Samson’s Country and Western Outlet. The entrance to the shop is carved to look like a massive horseshoe. The sales racks out front make it look like Jesse’s closet exploded onto the sidewalk. The same sidewalk that their little group is now gathered on, looking up at the store with trepidation.

“I’ve never smelled so much leather in one spot,” Hana says, inhaling the scent and letting out a long sigh. “I can see why you like it! Feels so manly!”

“A’ight,” Jesse says, pinching the bridge of his nose. He can already tell this is going to be a long day. “We got about two hours. Grab enough gear for at least three days; we don’t know how soon they’ll let you near the bomb. And for God’s sake, don’t buy nothin’ without askin’ me first.”

Holding the door open as they traipse through one by one, Jesse takes the time to lament that he cannot be on the ground for this mission. The one time he would be best suited and it has to be with Deadlock. If they are still anything like when he was in rank, they will not trust anyone that looks like a city-slicker. How is he supposed to make convincing cowboys out of this lot? And getting them to look the part is the easy bit; how are they going to learn to act the part in just a few hours?

The poor shopkeeper looks like he might have an aneurysm when he sees this weird group of outsiders file into his store, but Jesse has already come up with a convincing story to spin to get things rolling. “Howdy there,” he greets, strolling through the group to the counter, all wide smiles and southern charm. “I’m hopin’ you can help us out. Y’see, we’re part of the Flyin’ Monkey Performance Troupe, and we got a play comin’ up tonight out at the Concert Hall? But the plane managed to lose all our luggage!”

“Oh, now ain’t that just a shame,” the man behind the counter says, his customer service and salesmanship kicking in. “You just can’t trust the airlines these days.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” Jesse agrees. “Now, we know it’s short notice, but we need enough for costume changes and all that. I’d say three outfits each? And we’re in a bit of a hurry, as you can imagine. We’re supposed to be back at the theater by five. Do you think you can help us out?” He leans an elbow on the counter. “If we’re outta here in an hour, I’d be more’n happy to mention how generous and helpful your store was to our patrons. Hell, I could probably talk to ‘em about some sort of free publicity. How’s that sound?”

Jesse can practically see the dollar signs in his eyes. “Of course! Come on in, start browsing! Rebecca? We got customers! Rebecca? BECKY! BECKY, CUSTOMERS!”

Shopping is about as chaotic as he expected. Jack and Fareeha, and surprisingly Hanzo, make their selections quickly and Jesse only has to do a quick glance before giving them the okay. Those three he probably never needed to worry about, all of them having some sort of experience with this kind of thing. The others are a bit more problematic. Satya turns her nose up at everything presented to her, which surprises no one. Jesse has to hide a laugh behind a cough when he overhears the other employee Rebecca make a comment to her boss about how she must be one of the main actresses with how uppity she is. It earns Jesse a sour look from Satya who grabs an armful of blouses and disappears into the changing rooms.

“No,” Jesse says as he spots Genji pulling a shirt down over his torso that has shiny gold embroidery along the shoulders in the shapes of eagles and fringe under the arms.

Genji looks down at himself. “No? Why not?”

“Just no,” he replies, moving past to check on Angela and Hana. After some arguing over whether or not Hana could comfortably fight in a layered skirt, they have moved on to hats. “Any luck over here?”

“I just don’t think I am a hat person,” Angela says, picking up yet another hat and looking it over.

Jesse takes it from her and plops it on her head, then smirks. “Yeah, maybe you’re not a hat person.”

“Shush!” She whips it off and smacks him in the chest with it, then blushes as it seems to summon the shopkeeper to the end of their aisle. Quickly and carefully she replaces it on its hook and sighs. “I don’t know if I can do this.”

He turns concerned eyes toward her. “What do you mean?”

“This, all this. Undercover work. I am not some sort of spy,” she says under her breath, looking flustered and frustrated. “They’re going to be able to tell I’m lying.”

“Nah, you’ll be fine,” Jesse insists. “You lie all the time when we bang ourselves up and tell us it will be fine.”

Angela opens her mouth to gape, momentarily furious. “I do no such thing!”

“See, you’re doin’ it right now,” he says. This time she tries to march passed him but he hooks his arm with hers and drags her back. “Now, hold on, I’m just teasin’ you. We just got to get you as close to not lyin’ as we can.”

She frowns. “That doesn’t make sense. The whole point is to not be me.”

“The key to infiltration like this is takin’ on a persona that still has enough of yourself in it that you can react naturally. You want to feel comfortable, like when you go from your private life to Doctor Angela Ziegler. You act different when you’re fixin’ people up, right? Same thing.” They look down at her clothing choices, plain and efficient, much like her scrubs when she is in the infirmary. He can see her start to doubt her selections immediately and changes tactics. “Don’t worry about the persona yet, focus on the look. We need to add something that’s just you,” he says, eyes casting about for inspiration. “Something to help build up an identity you can work with. Something that’s still you.”

“I...think I see what you mean,” she says, looking around. Her eyes catch on a pair of earrings on the glass counter, dangling angel wings in matte gold. “But I still don’t think I can wear a hat.”

“How about we try a bandana,” Jesse suggests, plucking a black and white square of cloth from one of the stands and offering it to her. While she fusses with that, he turns to Hana. The clothes she has slung over her arm are a little more neon than he would like, but at least the style is on point. “Oh, hey, nice hat. The pink ribbon’s not really me, but you do you. Uh, what’s with the second hat?” he asks, pointing at the broad white stetson tucked under her other arm that in no way could fit her head.

She glances down. “Oh, that. I promised Bastion I’d bring him a cowboy hat. Get him in the spirit of things. I hope it fits his head. Do you think I should get one for Winston?”

Jesse turns away. This must be what his commanding officers felt like when Jesse started acting like an idiot on mission. He checks the time. “Ten minutes, people,” he calls out. He glances around. “Anyone seen Reinhardt?”

He finds the giant of a man and Hanzo in the back corner of the store where the men’s changing room is located. There are sounds of straining happening in one of the cubicles. Hanzo glances up when Jesse peeks around a rack of clothes. “We are having some size issues,” he explains, holding up a shirt that is far too big for the Japanese man but can barely contain the German.

“I always have to order from special catalog!” Reinhardt explains through the thin wood door.

Hanzo shakes his head, tossing the shirt he had been scrutinizing to a bench next to the door and picking up another. “None of the jeans fit, and all the shirts are just a little too small.”

“Did he bring anything in his gear we could use?” Jesse asks.

“One pair of jeans. His shirts are...less than ideal,” Hanzo sighs. “All t-shirts that have logos on them. Ones Deadlock members would be unlikely to wear.”

“Like what?”

Humor flickers across Hanzo’s features but he schools them for Reinhardt’s sake. “I believe one of them was some of Miss Song’s merchandise.”

Ah. Yes, that might be a problem. He turns to the door. “Any luck with that one?” The door just gives a huff in return. He picks up the shirt Hanzo discarded. “That’s a no. Damn, Reinhardt, you can’t even fit in this?”

“I have broad shoulders!”

“You have broad everything,” Jesse mutters under his breath.

“He will rip the seams of anything he puts on,” Hanzo says. Then he blinks. “We could just do that.”

Jesse frowns. “I don’t think the store will like that.”

“No, I mean,” Hanzo picks up a black shirt. “He could rip the sleeves off. He is the biggest, he could look like--”

“A bruiser,” Jesse says, grinning. “And no one’ll mess with him, even if he doesn’t look like he quite fits, cause he’s huge.” He taps the door. “New plan, big guy. Pick out whatever looks the most badass and meet us up front.”

Genji appears then at the end of the aisle, a sombrero perched on his head and wearing jeans with rhinestones down the sides. Next to him Satya looks like she has on half a wedding dress worth of white lace and the tallest pair of cowboy boots Jesse has ever seen. “If Satya gets to wear that, I do not see why I cannot wear this.”

“Satya’s not--” Jesse cuts himself off, pressing both hands to his face for a long moment. He is never going shopping with these people again. There is a suspicious snickering sound from over his shoulder and he has a feeling it is coming from Hanzo. “No. No, to both, no no no.”

“Aww, come on!”

By the time they get back to the carrier with their purchases, Winston is quietly fuming. He must have already noticed the ping on their account. The bill was mighty hefty. Jesse shrugs apologetically, but such is the price for undercover work. Winston has them gather around again. “I’ve got it set up so we’ll drop you all off in Eagle Point where you can pick up vehicles. From there you can drive to the gorge. Your contact will be at The Panorama Diner, a man by the name of Mercer. From there, it’s up to you to get to the bomb and get it out.”

“Where is the rendezvous point?” Fareeha asks.

“We can’t get the carrier into the gorge. The canyon walls are too close together and we’d be an easy target. You’ll have to get it out in the open, here.”

Jesse shakes his head, looking at the map and the route they would have to take. The distance makes his stomach clench with nerves. “It’s a long way to go.” But he knows that canyon like the back of his hand, and Winston is right. There are no other options. He turns around to face everyone. “Get dressed, and work on how you’re goin’ to act. Remember, you’re outlaws, but you ain’t no cartoon so try to act somewhat normal.”

“Sure thing, cowpoke!” Hana says enthusiastically, shooting him finger guns.

They can all see the pain in Jesse’s face at that, but he lets it slide. “And I need to know who’s goin’ to be the leader of y’all’s little group.”

He sees several sets of eyes flick to Morrison, the older man acknowledging it with a grunt. “I can do it.”

“You are the only one with an American accent,” Jesse agrees, but something niggles in the back of his mind that this is not the right choice. “They ain’t always too keen on ex-military, though. Depends on what you did and where you served.”

“I can do it!” Reinhardt says with his trademark enthusiasm. “How hard can it be?”

“Even when you’re intimidating you still sound too nice,” Fareeha replies. She glances at Jesse. “I would do it, but I am guessing it will be the same issues as with Morrison. And they will be even less likely to trust foreign military.”

Jesse winces. “Probably not. Sorry.”

She shrugs. “Just as well. I would not know what to say to a bunch of criminals that doesn’t sound like I am going to arrest them.”

Bastion, who has been listening in from his position in the corner and happily trying on his new hat, chimes in. Chrrrr woop chrrrr woop dweet doop bwop bwop?

Across from him, Satya takes a moment to consider that before raising an eyebrow and smiling, like she has just found a fascinating little puzzle. “What an intriguing thought, Bastion.” To the others, she says, “What about Hanzo or Genji? They both have backgrounds in the criminal underworld.”

There is a long beat of silence after that as Hanzo, who had been digging through his bag of clothing, looks up and falls still at the sudden scrutiny. The term deer in the headlights comes to mind. “Nani?” he asks, caught off-guard.

“Oooh, that’s a good idea!” Hana exclaims. She is already yanking clothes out of her own bag and picking out what she is going to to change into. “Genji could be your silent assassin bodyguard, and you can be all silent and intimidating like you used to be. You know, before we found out what a big softie you are.”

Hanzo glares at her but Jesse is already considering the possibility. “Y’all might be onto somethin’ here.”

“You cannot be serious,” Hanzo says dismissively. “Morrison is the obvious choice. They will trust an American more.”

“Maybe, but you know how these people work as well as I do,” Jesse says, hooking his thumbs in his belt loops and tilting his head, trying to picture it. “It’s more about presence and attitude than that.”

“They are not that far off from the yakuza, brother,” Genji reminds him. “And we do know a lot about weapons trafficking.”

Jesse hooks his chin at Hanzo. “C’mon. Show me what you got.”

The other man looks unsure for a moment, considering how to proceed, before he sets his bag down on the ground. When Hanzo straightens, it is like a transformation has taken place. The set of his shoulders is tight and controlled even as his posture shifts just subtly to the side, off-balanced and almost lazy. Jesse recognizes it as the way Genji used to act sometimes when he was drunk enough to feel cocky and let his inner playboy show. Hanzo’s piercing gaze meets Jesse’s and he takes a few strolling steps forward, the careless indifference of a man who knows he holds all the cards. Stopping before him, Hanzo looks Jesse up and down like he is the one being judged worthy. “I am told you are looking for someone with skill.”

It takes a moment for Jesse to realize he has a role to play in this little scenario. “Yeah, we might be,” he says. If this was real this would be where he would chew thoughtfully on his cigarillo. It is hard not to laugh at the thought, but now is not the time for that. He schools his face so he is a little more judgemental. “Don’t know how much help some squinty runt and a bunch of pansy foreigners could be.”

Jesse can see the little flash of surprise in Hanzo’s eyes at the comment, probably shocked it came from him, but it quickly turns to burning fire. Sounding bored, he glances over at Genji. “We should get this man a coffin.”

Frowning at the odd statement, Jesse huffs. “Why is that?”

“Because,” Hanzo says, voice turning low and dangerous. “You are already dead.”

Jesse is glad that everyone’s attention is on Hanzo, Hana rushing forward and gushing about how good that was and chills, he gave her chills , that was so good! Because then they do not notice the hot flush that creeps up Jesse’s neck and makes his ears burn. The archer’s eyes stay locked with his for a few more moments before he turns away, and when did it get so hot in here? “Right, good,” he says, hoping his voice does not sound as strangled as he feels. “Hanzo’ll be y’all’s leader. Make sure you get your fake names right, and get dressed. Try to muss yourselves up a little, too, cause y’all’s clothes are too clean and crisp for a bunch’a outlaws.”

They scatter then, and Genji comes up next to Jesse to nudge his shoulder. “Do you need to stick your head out the window for some fresh air?”

“Shut up,” Jesse replies, reaching up and tugging his hat down so the brim hides his eyes.

The group has to take turns changing in one of the few rooms at the back of the carrier, and Jesse idles by the doors waiting to look each person over and adjust where necessary. Some people need more help than others.

“Satya,” Jesse says carefully. “I know this is not easy for you--”

“I am already wearing this ridiculous outfit. What more do you want from me?” she asks, arms flailing uncharacteristically.

“All I’m sayin’ is that you look a little too...how do I put this? You look like a professional--”

“I am a professional!”

“...not that kind of professional.”

It takes Satya a minute to get the gist of his meaning, then her back goes ramrod straight. “Oh.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that outfit,” Hana argues, leaning out of the bathroom where she is applying a dash of glitter to the corners of her eyes, of all things. “You can wear short skirts and bold makeup and not be a whore, you know.”

“Yes, I am aware of that,” Jesse tries reasonably. “I’m all for women’s empowerment, but you ain’t tryin’ to convince me, you’re tryin’ to convince a bunch of--” He almost says ingrates , and the fact that he says it in his head in the same grating voice of Reyes gives him pause. Good lord, I’m turning into Gabe. “You know what? Nevermind. If this is how you feel comfortable, just be ready to bust some heads if they give you shit about it.”

“It will look better with the boots,” Satya insists, grabbing the far-too-tall heeled boots and sitting down to pull them on. “And it is like you said, it is all about attitude, correct? I assure you, I will have more than enough attitude.”

Jesse smirks. “That’s the spirit.”

Across the deck, Jack and Reinhardt are mournfully dismantling a brand new leather jacket with a knife. “This is like sacrilege,” Morrison sighs, taking one of the sleeves and deftly ripping it at the seam. “Do you know how much this costs?”

“Yes,” Winston grouses. “Yes, I do happen to know.” He types sourly at his tablet. “Was Blackwatch this expensive to run?”

“Wouldn’t know, they never let me look at expense reports,” Jesse replies good-naturedly, trying not to revel in Winston’s misery. “Look on the bright side, you might get out of this with a lot less ammo to repurchase than you thought you would.”

“Don’t say that until we’re done with the mission. I’m still not convinced we’re getting through this without a gunfight,” Morrison comments, ripping at the other sleeve. It does not come off as evenly, but that just adds to the effect. “Here, try this on.”

While Reinhardt is struggling into the jacket-now-vest, Jesse looks around. “Where’s Hanzo?”

“In there with Genji,” Angela says as she hooks her earrings in place and nods toward the back.

The furthest room from the main hull is barely more than a storage room, extra parachutes and parts for the carrier for repairs. Jesse taps politely on the door with his knuckles. “How’s it goin’ in there? We land in ten.”

Genji opens the door to let him in. They had finally got Genji to agree that he looked interesting and foreboding enough as-is without adding more from the outfit, so he is dressed in a simple predominantly black outfit of jeans and a collared shirt that is a little sleeker than Jesse would have chose. The only extravagance is the belt buckle, a big silver thing with an flying eagle on it. He has his wakizashi tucked into the waistband of his jeans; not a bad touch. His metal fingers keep going back to the silver buttons at his neck as he tries to decide if he should undo two or three. “We are almost ready,” Genji says.

“Good,” Jesse says, sparing Genji a glance before trying to peer over his shoulder. “Mind if I have a word with Hanzo here for a minute?”

“He is all yours,” Genji replies, slipping by and not giving Jesse time to pick up the amusement in his modulated voice. It does not really matter. Jesse’s attention is less on the door softly closing at his back and more on the man across the small space from him.

Hanzo is turned away for the moment, turning a revolver over in his hands and checking that it is loaded. His shirt is the same black as Genji’s with a slightly different cut to the collar, the sleeves down to his wrists. A leather belt holds up a holster and a pair of jeans so dark blue they could almost be black, the denim stretched tight against the muscles of his thighs. Jesse’s eyes get caught there, taking in the curves from his lower back to his knees and down to a pair of dark brown cowboy boots. Next to him a brown duster is draped over a stack of boxes, a final touch that Jesse might have thrown Hanzo’s way just so he could have a reason to see the man wearing it. When the door clicks shut Hanzo turns and looks up at Jesse.

Damn if that shouldn’t be illegal.

“You doin’ a’ight?” Jesse asks, taking a few steps into the space. The closer he gets the more his fingers ache to touch.

“I have been better,” Hanzo admits, shifting uncomfortably. “Do you know how long it has been since I wore proper shoes? And why must the pants be so tight?”

Jesse should keep his eyes up but he cannot really help himself. Besides, Hanzo brought it up. “You ain’t goin’ to have problems walkin’, are you?”

“No, it is just odd,” he assures, twisting a leg to look down at the cumbersome boot a second before turning his hard stare back to the unfamiliar weapon in his hands. “Are you sure about this? It is not too late to have Morrison take over.”

“You’re a natural at this,” Jesse says. “If I had my doubts I’d tell you, I swear. But you’re the best man for the job. None of the others have the experience blendin’ in with other outlaws.”

“Do not remind me,” Hanzo murmurs, looking away.

Oh. Oh, now he gets it. Jesse wants to smack himself. He should have realized. “It ain’t a judgement on your character, Hanzo, you know that.” When that just gets him a shrug, he presses. “You know, if we were up against anyone else it’d be me in there right by your side, right?” He gives Hanzo a playful nudge. “Us outlaws have to stick together.”

He can see the curve of Hanzo’s cheek rise with a small reluctant smile. “I suppose that is true.”

Jesse reaches past Hanzo to pick up the black cowboy hat next to the duster. “And say, what’s your name, cowboy?” he asks, exaggerating his accent even more because he knows it will amuse the other man.

Hanzo turns and looks over his shoulder, smile growing more confident. “Kuwabatake Sanjuro,” he says, sounding as cocky as a wild ronin. “Though I’m closer to forty, actually.”

The joke knocks a surprised laugh out of Jesse, sudden and uncontainable. How he wants to kiss this man. “Alright, Sanjuro ,” he drawls, “but you’re on your own if they’ve ever seen Yojimbo.”

“I have my doubts they are that cultured.” Turning completely to face Jesse, Hanzo holsters the gun with ease but little flair. Jesse knows that Hanzo is quite handy with a firearm despite his lack of practice and confidence; the storm bow is hardly the best weapon to have at-the-ready in a city, even for yakuza like the Shimada clan. Holding out his arms Hanzo asks, “Well? Do not hold back, what needs to be fixed?”

Not a damn thing. “Let’s roll up your sleeves,” Jesse suggests, watching with rapt attention as Hanzo does as he is told and exposes those muscular forearms. “They’ll probably ask where you got the tattoo. It’ll be a good topic, get them goin’ about their own. Deadlock loves talkin’ about tattoos.”

Hanzo raises an eyebrow and smirks, folding the fabric over and over. “I have never heard you talk about any tattoos.”

He can hear the question even though Hanzo never asked. Jesse tries not to blush. “I might have one or two.”

“Hmm. Something that has you turning red. Now I am curious.” Sleeves in place, Hanzo reaches for the hat but Jesse’s hand comes up to stop him.

“Let me,” he says. Before he can really consider his actions, Jesse reaches up and pulls the ribbon from Hanzo’s hair. It falls free easily, hanging to brush just along the tops of his shoulders and curl around the cut of his jaw. Jesse makes quick work of the plain, uninteresting piece of leather around the base of the hat and replaces it with the gold silk, feeding it through the small loops and layering it so it looks shorter than it is. “There, that’s more you,” Jesse murmurs, placing the hat securely on Hanzo’s head.

Hanzo lifts his head, tipping the hat back enough so Jesse can see those gorgeous brown eyes. They really are something else. Common sense tells him to look away and step back, but those eyes have caught him and he just cannot seem to look away. Instead his hands move to Hanzo’s shoulders, cupping the warm expanse of muscle through the thin layer of fabric, thumbs resting along the satin skin at the base of his throat. Hanzo’s looks uncertain, opens his mouth to speak, and the words are tumbling out of Jesse’s mouth before he can check them. “I’d say you look about the same as always,” he says, voice dropping deeper in its quiet. “Perfect, darlin’.”

There is a soft intake of breath, the feel of those shoulders growing infinitesimally more tense, and Hanzo’s eyes widen. He brings his own hands up to grasp Jesse’s wrists, not to push away but to hold them in place, even as Jesse’s fingers brush through the black strands with his good hand. The archer cannot hide the shiver that moves him. Hanzo breathes out softly. “Jesse,” he murmurs. Just that. Just his name.

The outside world seems far away in that delicate moment, but comes rushing back quickly enough. Reinhardt’s muffled rumble and Hana’s high-pitched laugh, the ship around them moving into decent, footsteps beyond the door. This is not the time or the place. Jesse reluctantly pulls his hands away and tucks them behind the safety of his serape, only now becoming aware of the pounding of his heart heavy and fast in his ears. They both look down and away, a moment lost. “You’re goin’ to do great,” Jesse says, unsteady.

“Thank you,” Hanzo replies faintly, hands coming up to adjust the hat on his head and tuck his hair behind his ears. Grabbing the jacket, he folds it over one arm and holds it close to his chest. There is an awkward moment where Jesse thinks that Hanzo is going to call him out on what just happened, maybe shut him down gently. He finds himself bracing for it as Hanzo clears his throat. “After all this is over, I would be very interested in seeing that other movie we were talking about. Now that it seems I will be living it.”

“We can do that,” Jesse agrees readily. Then, because his nerves are getting the better of him and he always jokes when he is nervous, he adds, “Get us out of here by tomorrow and I might be convinced to show you my popcorn recipe.”

Hanzo looks up at him again, awkwardness fading under the familiar banter. “Is that a promise?”

“Cross my heart. I’ll even make it a lesson.”

Jesse reaches out to hold the door open for Hanzo as the other man adopts a more exaggerated swagger to his walk. He pauses right in front of Jesse, and the purr that comes out of Hanzo’s mouth is almost enough to have Jesse tugging him back inside, mission be damned. “I expect nothing less.”

 

---

 

The drop off goes just as planned. Well, the ache in Jesse’s chest as he watches them pile into two pickup trucks and Hanzo’s long look before he disappears inside the cab is unexpected, but otherwise everything is just as planned. The group of eight go riding off in a haze of dust and glaring sun, and Jesse watches them go until there is nothing left to see.

Wee wooooooo , Bastion beeps comfortingly as he stomps up the ramp back into the carrier, Winston and Jesse behind him.

“They’re going to be fine,” Winston agrees. “If anything goes wrong, we can be there in under ten minutes.”

They surely think Jesse is worried because he is so intimately familiar with Deadlock’s ways. Not far from the truth, but the extra worries keep nagging him. Seeing the storm bow propped in one of the open storage lockers, so far from its owner, does nothing to help ease those worries. Reinhard’s hammer looks equally out of place, and Jesse has no idea if Hana is any good at combat outside her meka for extended periods of time. “When we get back, they’re all gettin’ extensive firearms training. No weaselin’ out of it, either, I mean every single one of ‘em. This is too dodgy for me.”

Out of the three of them Winston is the best pilot--well, Bastion might be after downloading a few manuals, but they would prefer to have his guns at the ready--and soon they are on their way. Athena finds them a cozy little spot out in the middle of the desert just within range of the canyon, and after landing Winston and Jesse hurry to cover parts of the carrier with desert camo tarps in order to break up its shape. They are far enough from the road that no one should even notice such a big aircraft, but there is no use in taking chances. After that, it is just a matter of settling in for the long wait.

The meeting goes well. There are five gang members waiting for them at the Panorama, and after some posturing and a few vague threats that Hanzo smoothly shuts down, Mercer finally comes forward to introduce himself. Mercer is apparently some middle-man in the organization, a friendly enough fellow and full of talk. It is no surprise that he is the welcoming committee for new recruits. Make them feel at ease before meeting the parts of Deadlock that are a little more prickly around the edges.

He is certainly someone with enough knowledge of Maddox and Soler to be worth getting on his better side. As such, Hanzo strikes up a quick camaraderie. And sure enough, Hanzo finds himself showing off his tattoo within the first twenty minutes, with Mercer pulling up his shirt to reveal a...well, since Jesse cannot see it himself he is not sure, but he thinks it is an orc of some sort. Ogre? Some creature with a giant wolf around him, from some eighty year old computer game. Whatever it is, Hanzo seems suitably impressed.

It takes them nearly an hour to finally get down to business. Turns out ‘Slim’ talked them up as pretty capable mercenaries that worked in Europe for a time, and Deadlock was suitably impressed with what he had to say. Mitch wants them to think of Deadlock Gorge as their home away from home, because he has big plans for them. Mercer keeps those plans pretty vague, though. Hanzo tries to bring the conversation back around to it several times, but Mercer is a bit of a talker that goes off on tangents. Often. Far too much.

Jesse can only hear half the conversation clearly and it makes everything more difficult to follow. They all have discreet comms in their ears, easy to hide with hair and hats and other accessories, but they only project so much. Those in the carrier are able to communicate back, but they agreed to only intervene if necessary or to change the rendezvous point. Thankfully Hana is a bit of an actress and chooses to play the role of loud-mouthed new kid that has to have everything explained to her so she will just shut up. It warms Jesse’s heart, even as it grates on his growing headache to hear her smacking bubble gum every other second.

He paces restlessly as the day passes over to evening, unable to do anything but listen as the team finds their way further and further in Deadlock’s base. Every time the group has to divide up, or one person goes off on their own, Jesse feels like he is sitting on the edge of his seat. He feels useless.

But, as awful as he feels here in the carrier, the team is doing great without him. They improvise well, playing off each other in ways that seem natural only because they spend so much time together. Jesse just wishes they had a more solid plan before going in; if something goes wrong, there is no way they could all get out. They are completely surrounded. No wonder Reyes would be on pins and needles when he had to listen in on other missions.

They get their first big lead from a gunman named Dex. Dex has a bit of an attitude, one remarkably similar to Fareeha’s, and after a bit of bonding over their prefered grenades of choice he goes from aloof to acting like they have been friends since preschool. It seems Dex is not too fond of Mitch Soler lately. Mitch started moving his brothers Tucker and Elias up into important positions in Deadlock, getting bigger cuts of the payout, despite the fact that they hardly ever do any work and, according to Dex, “Are yellow-bellied and damn near the laziest two sons-a-bitches I ever saw.” A lot of good loyal guys got skipped over by those two, guys that have been working with Deadlock a hell of a lot longer than Tucker and Elias.

Guys like Dex’s buddy Clive, who has been the getaway driver in no less than twenty-five bank robberies, and never once have they offered him a bigger payday. Or Dahlia, the pretty dark-haired girl that keeps bar at the tavern in town, who secretly passes along messages to weapons runners when they come through town. Or Bob, a man as big as Reinhardt but a lot less friendly. And three dozen other loyal followers that have paid their dues. But Mitch, he is only looking out for number one.

It quickly becomes apparent that Ruth Maddox is the leader they would prefer.

Then, Angela finds out that Bob thinks she is just the prettiest thing he ever did see.

“I don’t know if I can watch this,” Hana mutters under her breath so only the comms can pick it up. Those in the carrier can hear Angela giggle sweetly up at the giant of a man who seems to think the key to her heart is telling her about the time he killed a guy in Reno. “Hang in there, girl, hang in there.”

They are having dinner, and finally have an audience with Soler and Maddox. And about twenty of their top members. So far they have not had the opportunity for anyone to break away and even find the warhead, much less figure out how and when they are going to move it. And the tension between Soler and Maddox is so thick they can feel it all the way back in the carrier. Jesse can hardly stand to listen to it.

“Oh! Shit, sorry boss!” Hana exclaims suddenly, jolting Jesse from his continuous pacing.

“Kuso! Idiot,” Hanzo hisses back with the accompanying sound of a chair scraping. Then, “No, I remember. Just down the hall, yes?”

There is more movement, the sound of a door opening and closing, then Morrison’s voice echoing. “This isn’t working. All they’re doing is glaring at each other and making underhanded comments. I’m not sure we even needed to be here for them to turn on each other.”

“I know, but we need to move things along,” Hanzo answers. Water begins to run. “I’m going to distract them. When you see an opportunity, take D.Va, Reinhardt, Pharah, and Genji. Say you’re heading back to your bunks, whatever works. Find the bomb and figure out how hard it will be to move it.”

“You want Mercy and Symmetra to stay?” Morrison asks.

“Mercy is keeping the big one’s attention. And Symmetra has a turret in place under the table if we need to make a run for it.”

“What are you going to do?”

“What all criminals do when they are going to get paid,” Hanzo replies, shutting off the water and throwing open the door.

 

---

 

“Sake!” Hanzo cries out. It is immediately followed by a chorus of people shouting along with him, some clanking their glasses against the table, others just pounding the wood with a fist. Something is said by someone out of hearing range, then Satya saying something coy and cutting that elicits another round of laughter.

“Do you think they’re actually getting drunk?” Winston asks, leaning back in his chair.

Jesse, who got a bit lost somewhere after Hanzo’s fifth or sixth shot, shakes his head. “I really can’t tell. But if this is how he acts when he drinks, I’d say we’re due a margarita night back on base.”

Over the comms, Angela’s laugh tapers off and she speaks for their ears only. “Soler and his brothers are leaving. So are four of the other men.”

“Boss? Think I’m beat,” Morrison says a few minutes later, a stretch and yawn bending his words out of shape.

Hanzo laughs loud and a little obnoxious. “So early! Highway, you are getting old! Come on, stay a while!”

It takes Jesse a moment to place the reference, then nearly laughs. Of course he would take Jesse’s Heartbreak Ridge joke and run with it. Morrison--or should Jesse be calling him Gunny?--begs off more drinking, and the others join him citing the long drive. Satya moves forward to take one of their places at the table closer to Maddox, proclaiming that she knows the best drinking game to play, and even though Jesse would love to hear just what little-miss-uptight knows about drinking games he focuses his attention on the others.

Hana is the first to speak. “Now what?”

“We need to find that bomb,” Morrison says. “We can split up, but that’s a better chance of us getting caught.”

“Some of them were saying it is being kept locked down in the warehouse,” Genji says. “Anyone know where that is?”

A double beep. “McCree?” Morrison asks. “We need to know where the warehouse is.”

“Did they say which warehouse?” Jesse asks.

“No.”

Of course not. “The canyon is massive, they have at least ten. All of them are on the outer edges of the compound so trucks can load and unload firearms shipments. Chances are they’re keepin’ it in one of the reinforced rooms; they’re one level lower than you, underground.” He winces. “If it’s there, you’ll have to get it in the freight elevator to get it out.”

“If they got it in here, then we can get it out,” Genji says.

“Unless they took whatever vehicle out that they used to get it in there,” Morrison counters.

“We’ll figure it out,” Fareeha chimes in. “Let’s go.”

“But what if someone asks what we’re doing?” Hana asks, the soft clack-clack of her boots audible over the comm.

“Improvise,” Fareeha replies.

They fall silent so Jesse tunes back over to the party-in-progress. The heavyweight Bob sounds like he is showing off for Angela, lifting who-knows-what so she can be impressed by his strength, and Satya is keeping the rest of the table occupied with the rules of her game. Which leaves Hanzo and Maddox. “--cannot help but notice how much the men admire you,” he is saying. “Nothing but respect. That is the way you run an empire--respect. If your men do not respect you, then it is only a matter of time before they turn on you.”

“Well, I’ve got their best interests at heart. And their wallets,” she says, and just how close is she to Hanzo that her voice can be picked up on the comm?

“Let me pour you another,” he says, sloshing some as he fills her shot glass. “They do not say much about Soler. Or if they do it is with contempt.”

“He ain’t the same. He used to care about the rest of us. Now he only cares about those damn fool brothers of his. Deadlock’s thicker’n blood.”

“Yeah!” shouts a man close to Satya, “Deadlock’s family!”

Jesse feels an uneasy churn in his gut at the words and the chorus of agreement that echoes around the table. He remembers a time he shouted those same words with just as much fervor as these young fools.

Then Angela speaks up for the first time all evening. “So, that bomb you all stole,” she says, bringing the conversation at the table to a halt. “Your boss, what’s his name? Soler? He didn’t like you guys stealing it, right?”

“Right,” Maddox says slowly, her mind clouded by the alcohol. “What about it?”

“But he’s the one that’s going to sell it, right? That doesn’t seem fair. I bet he won’t even give you a proper cut of the money.” Then suddenly she is coughing and Jesse takes two steps forward toward the transmission, thinking they shot her or stabbed her or are choking her to death, but the coughs change to high giggles and there is the sound of a small glass clunking down onto the table and rolling about.

“Jesus Christ,” Jesse huffs, putting a hand to his heart. “That scared the hell out of me. And Angela’s drinkin’ and I ain’t even there to see it.”

They can hear Bob asking if she drinks often, and Hanzo deftly taking up the thread of conversation. “She has a point, you know.” He swallows heavily. Another shot. “That thing will go for millions. Awful lot of money.” Maddox says something too low for them to hear, and Hanzo replies, “Did you not say buyers were coming tomorrow? What buyers? Soler’s the one in contact with them. Do you think they will care who gets the payment? They just want the bomb.”

“Shit,” Jesse says as Winston starts typing furiously at the console. He has had Athena monitoring communications for hours, looking for any indication that Deadlock had a buyer for the CEB. So far they had come up empty, but there must be something they missed. “The buyer is coming tomorrow? Who?”

“I’m looking,” Winston replies, eyes trained on the screen as information scrolls by faster than Jesse could ever read. “Contact Morrison, let him know the timeline has changed,” Winston says,

Jesse quickly switches to the other team and waits just a moment to make sure they are not in a conversation with someone. “Morrison. Come in, Morrison.”

“Morrison here,” he replies quietly.

“Change of plans. The buyers are coming tomorrow for the CEB. You have to get it out of there tonight.”

There is a curse and a long pause, probably while he relays that to the others, then, “We’re working on it. You were right about their numbers. We’ll report when we find it.”

“Copy.” Jesse puts down the communicator and starts to pace again. “This is bad. I thought we were going to have a few days for them to find an opportunity.” Then he sees the grim look on Winston’s face. “What?”

“I found their potential buyer,” he says, moving the screen around so Jesse can see.

“Aww, hell.” The encrypted Talon communication is short and to-the-point, with a hefty price tag. Jesse takes up his pacing again. “A’ight.”

“You aren’t going to tell them?” Winston asks.

“It will just make them more nervous. They don’t need to know.”

Not twenty minutes later, the comms crackle to life again. “Morrison here. Target located.”

“Status?”

Genji’s voice joins the conversation, hushed to barely a whisper. He must have moved to a stealth position. “North side of the compound. Printing on the wall says D-12, does that mean anything to you?”

“Yeah,” Jesse replies. For Winston, he drags the overhead map of the canyon into view and points at a seemingly inconspicuous nook along one of the mesas around the edges. “Okay, okay, this isn’t as bad as it could be. You’re going to need to load it on a vehicle and take it up one level on the freight elevator. Once on the ground floor you’ll follow the main hallway, then take a left when it spits. It will lead you right to the outer door.”

“There are too many people,” Genji says. “I count at least twenty. Eight at the bomb itself and the rest moving around the warehouse. We need something to clear them out.”

“Copy that, stay at the ready.” He switches over to speak directly to Hanzo. “McCree here,” he says evenly, not wanting to startle him. “They found the bomb, but they need you to--Hanzo?” Jesse becomes aware of a lot of voices on their end of the conversation, and he must have missed something vital because they are a lot louder than before.

“--he’s right! We ain’t been paid proper in damn well three months!”

“Three?! I ain’t got my full share in six!”

“I’m tired’a puttin’ my neck on the line so somebody else can live the good life!”

“Yeah!”

“Well I know,” Hanzo slurs loud over the group, “If you had a leader like Ruth here, you would all be living like kings!”

“Damn right we would!”

“Maybe it’s time we do somethin’ about it!”

“Well what are you going to do?” Hanzo demands. “You said Soler’s gone more than he’s not! He could have already grabbed the payment and ran with it! And how would you know? You’re all down here!”

There are too many shouts then for Jesse to follow, he and Winston exchanging a worried look before the scientist heads to the cockpit to power up the carrier. Judging by the sounds of things there is a mutiny-in-progress and their team is right in the middle of it. They will be needed far sooner than anticipated.

Finally, after a lot more shouting and movement, they get an update. “Hanzo, reporting.”

Jesse cannot contain himself. “Did you just start a riot in the middle of all this?!”

“I think a coup would be the more accurate term,” comes a cheeky reply, and yeah, Hanzo must be at least a little drunk. “Tell Morrison we’ll meet them at the top of the elevator.”

Things go very fast after that, and Jesse can do nothing but listen and put together the pieces in his mind.

The men in the warehouse are drawn out by the sounds of confrontation one story up. All but the three tasked with not leaving the bomb under any circumstances, and who are easily taken out by Genji dropping down on them from the vents above. Between a forklift and Reinhardt’s sheer muscle they maneuver the bomb off its platform and over to the hover-truck to be secured. They knock out two more armed men inside the freight elevator when the doors open, tossing their unconscious bodies out onto the floor before the big doors slide shut. Satya is waiting at the top of the elevator, covering their exit with turrets along the ceiling.

Then Jesse can hear nothing but gunfire, which is his cue to get involved.

“How soon until we touchdown?” Jesse calls, rushing to the bay doors and grabbing a hook and tether in one hand, drawing his revolver with the other.

“Two minutes!”

The waiting is terrible, Jesse’s adrenaline pumping hard in his veins with nowhere to direct the energy. He long ago trained himself not to think in worst-case scenarios on missions. That is the path to madness. No, he will trust in his team to do the job they set out to do, and he falls back on counting slowly in his head to keep himself calm.

Bastion walks up next to him, prepared for a fight. Wee twoo?

When Jesse looks up, the complete incongruity of seeing the omnic with that ridiculous cowboy hat on his head making things a hell of a lot easier. “They’ll be fine,” Jesse says, confidence growing.

“Brace yourself, we’re coming in hard!” Winston warns. Jesse hooks the elbow of his prosthetic against a metal strut and it serves to help keep his balance as the ship swings around. A burst of air rushes past them as the bay doors fall open to form a ramp to the ground.

The dust flying up from the exhaust makes it hard to see the team in the distance, just clearing the doors. Reinhardt is pushing the hover-truck to make it go faster, with everyone else trying to run alongside and fire back with the guns they had with them. They have to make it about a hundred yards to clear the canyon walls and reach the carrier. Unfortunately right on their tail looks to be a horde of Deadlock with their sights set on stopping that bomb.

Jesse looks over at Bastion. “Light ‘em up.”

Wee woo! Bastion takes three hard stomps out onto the ramp, leaving just enough room for the bomb to be moved into position. Then his ocular lense turns from blue to red. In a flurry of mechanical motion he reconfigures to his sentry form, a large gatling gun pointed right at the door the team just ran from. Somehow the hat manages to stay perched on top. Dweet dweet dweet! A loud click, and he opens fire.

Nothing else is audible other than the loud and constant report of the gatling gun; chances are Jesse will be half-deaf by the time this is over. But the covering fire does its job, and the team soon have the bomb close enough for Jesse to run down and hook the tether to it. Hana runs up the ramp behind him to activate the winch and the cord hauls the bomb up into the hull of the carrier. “We got it!” Jesse calls down to the others, firing over their heads. “Come on!”

Everyone runs inside as the carrier gets peppered with gunfire. Hanzo is the last one up the ramp, nearly falling in his haste as the carrier begins to lift off before the doors are even shut. Jesse grabs him by the arm to keep him from tipping backwards, and the two go sprawling onto the metal floor as the ground drops out from under the ship and they head skyward into the starry night.

Chest heaving for air, Hanzo pushes himself up to lean against the CEB-5 warhead. His face is flushed pink from alcohol and exertion, and he has the biggest grin on his face that Jesse has ever seen. “Hardly a challenge,” he pants, before flopping back to the ground and laughing up at the ceiling.

 

---

 

After the success of the mission, Hanzo gets some well-deserved rest to sleep off his hangover. Not that the headache is completely gone by the time he wakes up (sometime in the early afternoon, he forces himself not to check the clock and feel guilty) but he has no intention of letting anyone else know that the pain still lingers. He plans on having a snack to tide him over till dinner and maybe finding Genji to see about sharing an evening meditation. The weather is starting to turn and winter will be upon them soon; spending the late afternoon outside sitting still and quiet will become more difficult as the year ends and he would like to take advantage while he can. His plans, though, fly out the window when he pads into the common room and finds the entirety of Overwatch piled inside. The cheer that goes up when they notice him in the doorway makes him wonder if he is still having some sort of weird drunken dream.

“There’s the man of the hour!” Angela exclaims, coming over with a glass already filled with orange juice and a happy little umbrella.

“Please tell me there is no alcohol in this,” he pleads, accepting the glass.

“We’re having mimosas!” Reinhardt booms from within the kitchen proper.

The noise makes Hanzo wince, and Angela wraps an arm around his shoulders to lead him further in the room. “Don’t worry, I made yours non-alcoholic. It is just juice.”

He looks around, a little bewildered. Everyone is in their casualwear, and, oh, whatever delicious smell is permeating the air makes his stomach clench hungrily. There is a large spread of fruit on the table that Mei is carefully adding strawberries to, with Genji much less carefully collecting just as many in a bowl for himself. His mask is still up but there has been more than one occasion where he has seen Genji with a full plate of food only to look back a few minutes later to find it empty. Torbjörn comes around from within the kitchen with a plateful of sliced fish and cheese, which gets set next to several containers of syrup and a huge can of whipped cream. “Ah,” he greets, looking up at Hanzo. “Look who decided to join us; the leader of the rebellion!”

Fareeha laughs loud, along with most of the others, and reaches around the shorter man to grab a hunk of gouda. “Revolution is hard work, Torbjörn, and he needs his beauty sleep.”

“What is going on?” Hanzo asks, wishing he had thrown on something a little more covering than sweatpants and a tanktop before wandering down the hall.

“We had a very good day yesterday,” Winston says. He is in the process of mixing some sort of peanut butter-chocolate syrup concoction that Hanzo is not sure he wants to know the purpose of, but is sure it is well beyond the calorie limit Angela set for him. “One of our long-standing traditions when a mission goes that well is--”

“Breakfast for dinner!” Lena cheers.

“Breakfast all day,” Genji corrects, waving a chunk of fruit at her. It looks a little like pineapple. “Nothing says well-earned relaxation like all day breakfast.”

“And you definitely earned all-day breakfast,” Angela finishes, squeezing Hanzo’s shoulders one more time before heading back to her perch between Genji and Zenyatta.

“Help yourself,” Lena says, handing him a clean plate. “We’ve got a right proper English breakfast going on here, and bacon and sausage keeping warm, eggs made to order and pancakes whenever you want.”

Conversation picks up again and Hanzo holds the plate close to his chest as he pushes past Morrison and Zarya tucked into their meals at the table on his way to the kitchen. There is someone he does not spot that he would really like to see, and he has a feeling if he follows the sound of sizzling butter he might find him. Sure enough, there manning the stove is a certain cowboy, looking far too tempting in tight jeans and a collared shirt, bandana around his throat. His hair is pulled back into a small ponytail, just enough to keep the hair from his face while he handles three different pans and a pot on the back burner. The only other person in the kitchen is Hana, who has also forgone pajamas for proper attire. She looks to be acting as McCree’s assistant, mixing batter in a bowl and keeping ingredients laid out for him to cook.

They both glance over at him when he shuffles in, Hana lighting up. “Good morning! Or, afternoon, I suppose. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you sleep so late.”

“He needed it.” McCree’s warm eyes watch him as he moves closer to look at what he is cooking. “What can I do you for?”

Hanzo gives a soft hum, drawn to the warmth radiating from McCree. Or maybe that is just the stove. “Lena mentioned pancakes?”

“One stack-o-pancakes, comin’ right up,” McCree replies, taking the bowl when Hana hands it over. Hanzo watches in mute fascination as McCree pours three near-perfect circles of goopy batter into the pan, hardly spilling a drop.

“Do not tell me you worked for a diner, too,” Hanzo says, plucking a piece of bacon from the plate McCree has next to the stove. The piece is hotter than he expected but he eats it anyway.

“Nah. Just love breakfast.” He grabs a ladle and deftly lifts a poached egg from the pot, placing it gently on a slice of toast waiting on a plate. “Order up.”

Hana twirls and grabs the plate, dropping a handful of greenery on top for garnish before making a show of carrying it into the other room. “Lena! Your order is ready!”

“I am starting to think you are secretly a chef when you are not working for Overwatch,” Hanzo comments, stealing another piece of bacon. McCree does not call him on it.

“It’s just food, nothin’ fancy.” He checks under the pancakes then gives each one a quick flip, revealing golden brown underneath. “I would’a offered you blueberries but Genji and Angela finished them off.”

Hanzo lets out a soft sigh, eyelids still feeling a little heavy but his headache fading under the warmth and comfort of the kitchen. “No,” he murmurs. “This is good.”

McCree looks resolutely down at the pancakes, and Hanzo knows before he opens his mouth what the other man is going to bring up. And that is a discussion he would prefer they have not surrounded by everyone they work with and his brother besides. “Hanzo--”

“All this cooking is not going to make you tired later, is it?” Hanzo asks.

“Er,” McCree fumbles. “Pardon?”

Hanzo places a hand on McCree’s forearm, squeezing lightly. “Someone owes me a secret recipe, if I recall.”

The grin that brings about is slow and lazy, a private amusement. “Surprised you remember that, considerin’ you were three sheets to the wind by the end there.”

He scoffs, dragging his fingers lightly across McCree’s skin as he pulls his hand away. Then, succumbing to temptation, he grabs a handful of bacon for his plate. “I can handle my liquor better than that.”

“Sure you can.” McCree lifts the pan and flips one, two, three pancakes onto the plate in a neat little stack. “Tonight?”

“Tonight,” he agrees, the two lingering just a moment before Hanzo retreats.

Hanzo ends up enjoying his pancakes and bacon at the table while the others regale those that missed the mission with tales of their foray into undercover work. From what he can gather this is the second retelling of the day, and Genji and Hana keep exaggerating points more and more until they were running from five hundred men and Satya and Hanzo drank the whole lot of Deadlock under the table. Reinhardt bemoans how he never got to beat anyone up, he was just there to ‘look pretty,’ which gets them all talking about how next time Reinhardt should be the one wearing a lace skirt, and then him proudly proclaiming he would do just fantastic on a seduction mission, thank you very much. The archer laughs at the image, his eyes finding McCree across the room leaning against the kitchen counter and watching them all as he nurses a cup of coffee. Relaxed, taking in the chaos around him with a quiet sort of contentment, McCree happens to catch his eye across the crowd. The smile receives feels like it is just for him, like Hanzo just walked into sunlight.

 

---

 

“Hanzo Shimada,” McCree says with far more gravity than is normally warranted in this setting, smiling like he cannot help himself and spreading his hands open on the countertop between them. “Are you prepared to accept the knowledge I am about to impart on you.”

The archer flashes a smile before forcing a serious face. “I am ready to learn, sensei,” he says, giving a slow bow that has McCree snickering.

“A’ight, now, if you’re gonna make fun,” he complains, laughing as Hanzo rights himself and tucks a loose lock behind his ear.

The kitchen has long been cleaned from all-day breakfast, because even stomachs as fathomless as Reinhardt can be filled if you try hard enough. Hanzo only had one serving--okay, maybe two, and a half, but he will work it off in the gym tomorrow--before disappearing for a few hours. He needed a little time to himself after all the socializing, and a nice hot shower to get the lingering smell of sake and smoke from his skin. And, if he is being honest, to gather his courage for the coming evening.

Hanzo quickly forgets his worries, though. McCree does not bring up their moment on the carrier, and has instead set up this little presentation for Hanzo with all the flash and fanfare that Hanzo has come to expect from the gunslinger.

“I apologize,” Hanzo says quickly, sitting forward in his chair. “This is a serious matter.”

“Very serious. You know, I’ve never shared this recipe with anyone.”

Hanzo raises his eyebrows in surprise. “No one at all?”

“That’s right. Not another soul on this here planet knows the secret. You are receivin’ a mighty fine honor.” He squints at Hanzo critically. “Are you sure you’re ready? I ain’t sure you’re ready. Maybe we should give it a few days--”

“Get on with it, McCree,’ Hanzo laughs.

“Right! So! The first thing you’re going to need is a stovetop popcorn popper.” He twirls around and grabs the item in question: a silver container that is often crammed into the corner of the kitchen counter. Hanzo has noticed the weird piece of cookware and often wondered what it was exactly, with its weird divided flap-top and wooden handle sticking out of it. “I had this one ordered about a week after the recall, when it became clear this was really a thing we were doin’, you know? Couldn’t really carry one around with me when I was travelin’ with how bulky it is.”

“This is something made specifically for popcorn?” Hanzo asks.

“Yep. You’ve seen the big machines in theaters and at fairs, right? They work on the same principle. A normal pot will work in a pinch but it takes a little more finesse.”

McCree hands the pot over for Hanzo to give it a once-over, opening one of the lids to peer inside. There is a long metal rod that goes down to the bottom of the pot with what looks to be a propellor at the base. “I had wondered what this was for,” he says, handing it back. “But I can understand the idea.”

“Now, for the ingredients.” McCree grabs a bag of bright golden popcorn kernels that he has had set aside. It is hard for Hanzo to hold down his amusement at how eager the other man is to show this off for him. “First, we got your popcorn kernels. You’re going to need three-fourths of a cup for the size popper I got here. You can use any old kind you like, this here is the only ones they had at the store, but which ain’t the best but the differences are subtle--”

“There are different kinds of popcorn kernels?” Hanzo asks, frowning at the clear bag McCree is holding in front of him.

“Sure there are! You got baby white, medium white hulless, midnight blue, purple hulless, rainbow blend--what’s that face for?”

Hanzo holds up a hand to put an end to that. “Let us keep to the basic version and save the advanced lessons for next time.”

Rolling his eyes, McCree puts the bag down and picks up the next ingredient. “Unrefined coconut oil. Unrefined. Very important.”

He unscrews the cap and holds the jar close so Hanzo can sniff at the scent. It is like sticking his head in a whole coconut. Hanzo frowns for a moment before his head shoots up. “That is the taste I could not place? Coconut?”

“That’s right,” McCree says with a smile, scooping a small amount of it out of the jar. It looks a little like ground-up white bar soap, and if Hanzo saw it out of context he would never guess it was for consumption. “No one ever guesses coconut. But that’s what makes it so smooth and gives it that little hint of sweetness.” He taps the scoop against the rim of the popper until the coconut oil falls inside. “Three tablespoons of unrefined coconut oil.”

Next he brings over a little bowl and a bottle that is happily labeled Popcorn Topping! “This is just butter-flavored popcorn oil. They use the same stuff at theaters and ballparks. Nothin’ fancy about it, just easier to keep than regular butter. You’ll want to put around two to four tablespoons of this in a bowl so we can use it later.” He pours some of the translucent liquid in, somehow eyeballing it with the confident motions of a cook that has no need for a measuring spoon. The orange pool of oil in the bowl reminds Hanzo of the chemicals Zenyatta sometimes adds to his system after a particularly grueling battle. “Until you hone in on how much you like, I’d say start with two. I shoot for around the halfway point.” He goes back to the bag of kernels and shakes out three kernels into his hand, then drops them into the pot. “Once you got that prep ready, you take this over to the stove and set it to medium-high.”

Hanzo slides off the stool and around the counter to follow McCree to the stove. “Why just a few pieces?”

“They’re going to let you know when the oil is hot enough,” he explains. McCree leans his hip against the counter on one side of the stove, Hanzo on the other. “This’ll take a few minutes. You ready to bask in the glory of A Fistful of Dollars?”

“I still say you are delusional to think it is better,” Hanzo replies, crossing his arms. “But since this Eastwood is your personal hero--”

“Now you best be watchin’ how you talk about Clint Eastwood--”

“I am assuming you have a great deal of bias on the subject.”

McCree puts a hand to his heart. “And here I am revealin’ to you the most coveted of secrets, this is a betrayal that just can’t stand, no, no, hide your eyes!” He grabs the decorative towel by the sink, a rather hideous looking thing with a picture of a happy fat chicken on the surface, and tries to throw it in Hanzo’s face.

He laughs and grabs it, whipping it back. “What is your obsession with that man, anyway? You sing nothing but praise for all his movies.”

“Not all his movies,” McCree insists. “I wasn’t too fond of the second Dirty Harry movie.”

“Dirty Hairy?”

“And Space Cowboys! That one was horrible!”

Hanzo wrinkles his nose. “It sounds like something Genji would watch.”

“Naw, probably go over his head,” McCree teases back, flicking the towel his way again. He opens his mouth to add more but the little kernels in the pot explode loud and sudden in the confines of the pot. “Aw, shoot, here we go!”

He grabs the kernels he measured out earlier and throws them in the popper. Closing the lid he immediately starts to turn the crank. “You want to continuously stir until it starts poppin’, or else they won’t cook even and you’ll waste half the kernels. While I’m doin’ that, throw the popcorn butter in the microwave for me. Thirty seconds’ll be fine.” In less than a minute the kernels start popping in rapid succession, filling the popper to capacity in a matter of seconds. As soon as they start pushing the lid open with their sheer mass, he takes the popper off the burner and shuts off the stove.

Hanzo has the popcorn bucket right there when McCree turns around to look for it. “Thank you kindly,” he says, dumping the contents of the popper in the bucket. “Now for the tricky part.”

“The tricky part?” Hanzo asks, then blinks. “How is salt the tricky part?”

“First, it ain’t just any kind of salt. This here is fine-grain popcorn salt. None of that table salt nonsense; the texture’s all wrong. And you do this sort of--” And here McCree does an exaggerated wave of the salt container over the bucket of popcorn, layering a fine mist of salt over the kernels on the top. “Then you shake it, and do that two more times.”

He demonstrates, and Hanzo holds a hand over his mouth to keep his mirth in. At McCree’s curious look, he says, “I was not expecting there to be a lot of silly wand-waving.”

“I think that was almost a Harry Potter reference, so I’ll let your mockery slide,” McCree counters, grabbing the bowl of butter from the microwave. “Then you just pour the butter over the popcorn and give it another thorough shake to get it all mixed together and coated.” He puts the lid on the bucket and shakes it hard, the contents thumping loud against the plastic. Pulling off the lid once he is done, McCree turns and presents the finished product to Hanzo, just as he has seen numerous times before. “Voilà. The perfect popcorn.”

Hanzo stares at the bucket for a long moment. He can hardly believe it. It takes him a moment to comprehend. “So you are telling me that the big secret to your popcorn is nothing more than coconut oil?” he asks, eyes traveling from the fluffy white kernels to McCree’s face.

His smile falters slightly. “Uh. Yes?”

The entire process Hanzo had been waiting for McCree to pull out his major secret ingredients, whatever concoction he mixed in that made it so irresistible. This cannot be it. “I was convinced you had some secret spices or, or...that you added sugars and exotic oils and, and--coconut? It is just coconut?” Hanzo really needs McCree to be clear about this. His sanity may rely on it.

“Well, it ain’t just coconut but,” McCree shrugs. “Sometimes somethin’ simple is the best ingredient.”

Hanzo opens his mouth to retort, but nothing comes to mind. Instead, he shakes his head and takes a handful of popcorn to munch. It is just as perfect as always, and now he knows the secret. As simple as it is. “Thank you,” he says finally, looking up at McCree again.

“No problem, sug.” McCree grabs a few bites for himself. “Now you can’t go tellin’ anybody, you got that? This is purely a Movie-Aficionados-Only recipe.”

The way McCree says aficionados, all round syllables and twang, has Hanzo grinning all over again. “Understood. Just you and me.” The idea of the two of them having this secret between them, however silly and unimportant it may be, sends a thrill through Hanzo that has him looking away.

McCree grabs a six-pack of soda cans from the refrigerator and tucks them under one arm, then sweeps his arm out in play-bow. “Shall we?”

They pick and tease at each other all the way up to the movie room, but noises from within have them slowing their steps as they reach the doorway. Hanzo nearly jumps when McCree comes up to stand next to him and his hand finds its way to the small of his back, the touch feather-light through the fabric of his shirt. When did he get so close?

Standing before their television is Hana, arms crossed and looking annoyed with her foot tapping impatiently. At her feet Lúcio is bent over on his knees, his upper half crawled up under the entertainment system. There are about six different cords under Lúcio’s legs all in a tangled mess. “Hurry up!” Hana whines. “My stream is supposed to start in ten minutes!”

“I hear you! Just give me a minute; it’s like they’ve never heard of cable sleeves in here…” Lúcio grumbles.

“Uh, hey there,” McCree drawls.

Hana jerks her head sideways at the sudden voice and down on the floor Lúcio jumps, making a loud racket as he whacks his head on the underside of the shelf. “OW! Dang, man, give a guy some warning!”

“That was a warning,” Hana fusses, giving Hanzo and McCree an apologetic look. “We’re so sorry, we’ll be out of here in just a second. Come ON, Lúcio!”

McCree chuckles with amusement, low and close in a way that ripples over Hanzo and pushes him forward. The fingers at his back fall away as he moves to sit down. “There is no rush,” Hanzo insists, placing the bucket on the table.

“Yeah, you do what you need to do,” McCree says, falling onto the seat next to Hanzo and stretching his arms out over the top of the couch. “What are y’all doin’, anyway?”

“Just needed a replacement cord for one that shorted out,” she says, looking down at the two of them with a wide smile that stretches nearly to her ears. “Lúcio, if you don’t hurry up--”

“Why are you so angry? I don’t see you holding this flashlight or nothing--Woo! Jackpot!” With an undignified wiggle Lúcio backs his way out from under the entertainment system with cable in hand, shoving all the others he dragged out back into the shadowy depths. His dreads are flopped all over the place and he pushes them all back as he gets to his feet. “Sorry, fellas, we’ll get out of your hair.”

“Yeah, places to go, games to play,” Hana says, that smile so exaggerated that Hanzo thinks she might be hurting herself. Her arm hooks around Lúcio’s and she practically drags him toward the door. “You know how it is.”

“You guys have a good night!” Lúcio adds before they disappear around the corner.

Hanzo frowns after them, about to mention how odd that was, when Hana’s voice carries from the hall as they go.

“See?! I told you it was their date night!”

The sudden silence after that fading statement is like a bucket of ice water tossed on them.

It seems like everything stops then: McCree’s hand on its path to grab the controller from the table, Hanzo’s breath in his throat, maybe even the world on its axis. Hanzo’s eyes stare resolutely at the table ahead of them, even as McCree turns his head to glance his direction.

“Sorry about that,” McCree says, pensive, somehow able to form coherent sentences. Somehow managing to sound guilty, but for what Hanzo does not know. “Don’t know where she got that idea.” He picks up the controller and gives it far more focus than is warranted in looking for a movie.

It is an out. Hanzo can recognize one when he sees it. If he wants, Hanzo can just keep quiet and let the moment pass, just like the one on the carrier. McCree will forget it ever happened. McCree will respect whatever decision Hanzo makes. Whatever Hanzo needs. Selfless.

Hanzo takes a slow breath.

“So are we not going to talk about it?” Hanzo dares, heart pounding as soon as the words leave his lips. His companion twists around to look at him in surprise and Hanzo forces himself to meet McCree’s gaze, certain that he must look as rattled as he feels. Hoping he is not making a mistake.

McCree’s reply is slow, careful. He does not pretend to not understand. “I wasn’t sure if that’d be welcome,” he says.

Voice faint, Hanzo replies, “It is welcome.”

“Oh.” McCree shifts his weight on the couch and Hanzo’s eyes flick down. Flesh and prosthetic fingers alike are clenching on the couch cushions. He is just as nervous as Hanzo. “Well,” he stalls, thinking of what to say. Then a slow cheshire smile forms on McCree’s face that has Hanzo’s heart beating double-time. “It ain’t exactly a secret how I feel about you, darlin’. I think everyone on base knows.”

Hanzo feels his cheeks flush pink. “Not everyone,” he insists. “I could not...you are so…” A huff, then, “We are both rather transparent to everyone except each other, then.”

“Is that so?” He looks so pleased with himself that Hanzo is nearly annoyed. Would be if he was not so invested in this. “You like little ole me?”

“You have your moments,” Hanzo says, finally smiling when it brings about a pout on that rugged face. He almost feels giddy with elation. Judging by the light in McCree’s eyes, he feels the same. No, no, he reminds himself. Jesse. Biting his lower lip, he asks, “What now?”

Jesse laughs like a bubble of nerves has popped. “Now,” he drawls, sitting back and stretching his arm out along the back of the couch again. “We have a perfectly fine movie to watch. Why don’t you scootch on over here and join me?”

“I do not scootch,” Hanzo argues on principle, but is hopeless to resist the inviting space next to Jesse. Snagging the popcorn bucket he throws caution to the wind and tucks right up next to him, loving that their sides fit together so neatly. Jesse brings his other arm up to help hold the bucket steady on his lap and does not even bother for subtlety before lowering his arm from the couch to Hanzo’s shoulder. As the first strands of guitar begin to play and melodic whistling joins in for the opening, Hanzo says, “Is it not a bit cliché for our first date to be a movie?”

Palming a handful of popcorn, Jesse chuckles. “Darlin’, at this point we might be on date seven or eight.”

“It is not a date if there is no intent.”

“Oh, I got intentions.”

Hanzo elbows him lightly in the ribs, snuggling down so his date cannot see his pleased smile. “Be quiet and watch the movie, Jesse.”

It should not be this easy. Things should be awkward, fumbling, hesitant. In those weak moments when Hanzo allowed himself to imagine how things might go between them if he ever found the courage, there was...well, a lot less talking. And a lot less laughter, come to think of it. It should not be this easy but it is, really no different than the last few times they curled up on the couch together to watch a film. They still bicker and argue about the merits of this or that, still discuss the plot, the characters, and every other little thing they can find to talk about. The only difference is now Hanzo gets to feel the soft wool of Jesse’s serape rubbing against his arms, the heat he radiates like a furnace. He gets to feel Jesse’s fingers in his hair when he teases Hanzo about the little wings of gray at his temples, how he looks an awful lot like Toshiro Mifune, maybe as much as Jesse looks like Clint Eastwood. He gets to find out how much better that deep drawl sounds up close, and closer still when his head finds its way to Jesse’s shoulder, ear pressed against his chest as the movie plays on. He gets to take in the man’s scent, something he has ached for ever since the serape he never quite got around to returning lost Jesse’s unique fragrance so long ago.

“I think you might be right,” Hanzo murmurs late in the movie, his fingers tracing up and down the soft folds of the serape, following the pattern. “This version is better.”

“Think you might be the one that’s biased, now,” Jesse counters. His lips graze Hanzo’s hairline, breath stirring the strands and making Hanzo shiver.

“Maybe,” he admits. “To be honest, I have not been paying that much attention.”

“Me neither. Just means we’ll have to watch it again.” Hanzo watches mutely as Jesse tangles their fingers together and lifts them to his lips. The kisses he presses to Hanzo’s knuckles tickle with the edges of his beard. Hanzo tightens his fingers in his hold.

“Are you sure about this?” he asks, because his mind will not let it lie. “We have to work together, and if we do not work out then we still have to work together, and you know that I am hard to deal with even when--”

Jesse presses a thumb over Hanzo’s lips, bringing him to a quiet halt. The other man just looks amused. “I’m sure, Hanzo,” he says. The hand moves to cup Hanzo’s cheek. “We’re adults. Whatever happens, we’ll figure it out. I just want to be with you.”

“Jesse,” Hanzo breathes, closing his eyes. He cannot handle the sincerity in Jesse’s gaze.

“I do love how you say my name.” He tugs at Hanzo’s shoulder, other hand moving from his cheek to his jaw. “Please, can I--?”

“Yes, yes, just--”

Jesse kisses like all the boys they warn you about in country songs, the ones Hanzo claims he hates but looked into anyway because Jesse McCree makes him do stupid things without ever even being aware of it. The press of their lips together stays innocent only long enough for Jesse to be sure Hanzo is not going to pull away, then he is pressing forward and pulling Hanzo in all at the same time. Their facial hair scrapes together but a tilt of the head and it is so much better. Jesse laps his way inside with the gentle slide of his tongue, groaning softly at the way Hanzo opens up for him without resistance. Hanzo answers with his own quiet moan and his fingers dig into Jesse’s hair to hold him in place.

When they finally part for air, those fingers do not let Jesse get far. Somehow Jesse’s hand migrated to Hanzo’s waist to squeeze. “We should have done this ages ago,” Hanzo whispers, pressing back in for more.

“Mmm,” Jesse agrees, then groans when Hanzo worries at his lower lip. “Lots of time to make up for,” he mentions between soft kisses along Hanzo’s cheek over to below his ear.

Hanzo arches his neck, gasping at the light nip Jesse leaves there. “I do not want to-- ah --want to rush this, rush us--” He cuts off with a soft hiss when Jesse digs his teeth into tender skin, then again as he moves down to leave a red mark lower on his throat.

“We won’t.” Another kiss over the bite, a soothing little lick. “We won’t, but I--God, I could kiss you for hours and never want to stop.”

“Jesse, I--” Hanzo loses his train of thought quick enough as Jesse’s mouth blots out everything else. He tastes so good, the lingering buttery flavor nearly gone with nothing left but hot slick tongue and soft tantalizing lips and what was Hanzo concerned about before? It must not have been that important. Not as important as the rush of blood in his ears competing with the little sounds Jesse keeps making in his throat. Hanzo thought the popcorn had been addicting, but he thinks he found something even better.

This time it is Jesse that finds himself pulling back, though Hanzo makes it hard for him by keeping hold of his lower lip with his teeth and letting it drag free. Jesse presses their foreheads together while they catch their breath, and near simultaneously they find themselves grinning at each other like loons. Jesse licks his lip to speak and Hanzo finds his eyes watching the motion hungrily. “You were sayin’ something, darlin’?”

Was he? Oh, right, he was. “Yes,” he says, “We should probably slow down, maybe, I, um.” Hanzo can feel himself blushing, but they are so close and Jesse is wrapped around him, all he can do is cast his eyes aside. “To be honest it has been quite a while since I have had a, a relationship, since before I left Hanamura, actually, and I do not want to, to, Jesse McCree stop laughing this instant, I am serious!” he protests, flushing even hotter.

Jesse presses another soft kiss to his lips, much more tame than the last. “I can’t help it, you’re so damn cute when you’re flustered.” He drags fingers through Hanzo’s hair, hopelessly disheveled and falling out of the ribbon holding it up. “I ain’t in no rush, either. We got no set timeline. Just as long as you and me are good, we’ll be fine. Okay?”

“Okay,” Hanzo replies. Then, because he can, he pulls Jesse in for one more round of soft kisses. Not as heated this time around, but just as needed. “I am supposed to go into town with Genji in the morning,” he murmurs his reluctance to part against Jesse’s lips.

“And I have a meeting with Winston and Morrison,” he groans in reply. His nose nuzzles softly at Hanzo’s. “I’ll be free after lunch.”

“We have not practiced together at the range in a while.” A little smile plays along Hanzo’s lips. “I would like to watch you shoot without hiding my pleasure.”

Jesse’s face lights up like he found a prize. “Darlin’, I knew I was gone on you for a reason. You don’t know what your archery does to this old heart of mine.” He kisses Hanzo again, then once more, then the palm of his hand. “You should head on to bed. I’ll clean up.”

Hanzo stands, fingers still tangled with Jesse’s. “I can wait.”

The look Jesse gives him then makes Hanzo’s knees weak. “If I walk you to your room I ain’t sure I’ll be able to keep that promise about takin’ things slow.”

“How do you say such things,” Hanzo huffs, bending down for one last kiss, really, this is the last one this time. The only thing that keeps him from falling back onto the couch with the other man is the soft push Jesse gives him before their hands separate. He backs toward the doorway, Jesse watching his every movement with a sly grin. “Goodnight, Jesse.”

“Goodnight, Hanzo,” he replies, hands fisting on the cushions again to keep from leaping up and giving chase.

Hanzo laughs and turns, forcing his legs to move and carry him away from that tantalizing sight. He feels pleasure-drunk, more than he did drinking all that sake. His smile stays with him all the way back to his rooms, while he gets ready for bed, laying in the cool darkness as he thinks of a cowboy just a few rooms down. If he is not careful he will still be grinning in the morning.

Genji’s teasing is going to be merciless and for once Hanzo does not even care.

Chapter Text

That morning Hanzo woke early feeling particularly wonderful. Better than he had in years, if he is honest. Perhaps he even laid in bed a few minutes grinning up at the ceiling, wondering at the unexpected turn his life has taken, before rolling out of bed to get ready for the day. No one needed to know if he took his time combing his hair that morning, tying the sash in his topknot carefully and maybe even dabbing the tiniest bit of cologne (from a bottle he has not used in probably three years at least) under the crook of his jaw. It is not like he needs a reason to treat himself from time to time.

Glancing at himself in the mirror, he rolls his eyes. Who is he kidding?

He goes to eat breakfast an hour before he is to meet Genji down in the garage, but he finds his brother already at the table with what looks like a tablet with a mission briefing in front of him. Or perhaps a mission report. Hanzo is still surprised at the amount of digital paperwork involved in working with Overwatch. He can only imagine how cumbersome it would be without Athena to maintain order. Either way, his brother is bent over a tablet typing away at the on-screen keyboard. On his left Mei is enjoying a bowl of tofu pudding, brown sugar and ginger syrup poured on top. On his right Lena is systematically tapping the shell off a soft boiled egg in its egg cup, a few pieces of toast waiting on the plate next to it. She already has her Earl Grey poured and fixed to her liking off to the side.

They murmur quiet hellos as he walks by, intent on making his own sencha and, after a look at the contents of the refrigerator, an orange. Joining them at the table with his small meal, he finally notices Lena’s forlorn expression. “Are you alright?”

Lena makes a disgruntled noise in the back of her throat and a glob of egg falls from her spoon onto her shirt front. Across from her Mei winces. “She, ah...what is the phrase? Is in the chicken coop?”

“The dog house,” Genji supplies.

“I am not in any animal’s house,” Lena grouses as Mei slides her a napkin.

Genji hums. “You are a little bit.”

“What happened?” Hanzo asks.

Lena lets out a horrible whine and covers her face with both hands. “I forgot Emily’s birthday.”

Hanzo winces in sympathy, just as Mei did. He has yet to meet this mysterious Emily, Lena’s girlfriend of close to three years at this point. From what he has heard she is a bright, curious woman that has a bit of a sarcastic streak and an unending love of animals but incidentally is horribly allergic to animal dander. She has to medicate for hours beforehand but she routinely volunteers at the shelter near their London apartment, trying to fulfill her wish to own a cat by playing and looking after others. Lena tries her best to send her cute animal pictures every day because it makes Emily coo and laugh.

For someone he has never met, Hanzo cannot help but think Emily is perhaps perfect for Lena. At least when Lena is not doing something foolish like forgetting a birthday. “When was it?”

“Yesterday,” she whines from behind her fingers. “I was supposed to fly home after the mission. We were going to have dinner.”

“She did not remember until Emily texted last night asking if she was running late,” Genji supplies, and Lena lets loose another louder whine, this one without any words attached. A metal hand comes up to pat her comfortingly on the shoulder.

“I’m such a bloody git,” Lena huffs, dropping her hands back down and beginning to eat again, though she is making little progress. “I was so busy mucking about yesterday I just forgot, and now she is right miffed. I offered to go first thing this morning but she said she had plans with her parents, and so of course her folks are just steaming! They still aren’t too happy I’m back with Overwatch as it is, and now they’ll have this to hold over my head every time something goes balls up. It’s a load of hard cheese is what it is!”

Hanzo glances across the table at Mei, who shrugs in response. Whatever hard cheese is supposed to mean, it does not sound positive. “Well,” Hanzo says, watching Lena aggressively put more jam on a piece of toast, “I have to think it would be easier to work things out if you were in England than here.”

“I know, I know,” she sighs. “I’m just giving her some space. I head out this afternoon.” Lena props her head on her hand, looking around the table. “Maybe I should get her flowers.”

“The present you already got is fine,” Mei insists. “It’s beautiful.”

“But flowers are always a nice touch,” Genji argues.

“Usually, but right now all they say is ‘I don’t know how to fix things, take this present instead!’ She will see though that,” Mei counters. To Lena, she says, “Just go and treat her nice, spend time with her, and don’t answer your communicator for a day or two unless it is an emergency.”

“Yes, I am sure we can handle things for a few days,” Hanzo adds.

“As long as there’s no more random bombs that need collecting, I suppose,” she sighs. Then she nudges an elbow into Hanzo’s side. “I still want to see pictures of you in all that western gear. I can’t believe I missed it!”

Mei giggles, glad to see Lena’s mood improving even if it is at Hanzo’s expense. “I do to! I’m sure Hana got some good shots.”

“I can imagine at least one person who would want a copy,” Genji says, not bothering to look up at Hanzo. Which is good because Hanzo’s glare could burn a hole through Genji’s exoskeleton.

“Oh, does Genji know now, too?” Lena asks.

Genji scoffs, tapping the delete key on whatever he had already written. “Of course I do, he is my brother. It is my job to know who he crushes on.”

“I do not have a crush,” Hanzo states, but the other three ignore that completely.

“Do you think he will ever do anything about it?” Mei waves a hand at Hanzo and says as an aside, “You really should do something about that.”

Hanzo opens his mouth but Lena cuts him off. “They had a little long-distance date when Jesse was on that mission with Genji.”

Now they have Genji’s full attention, his head popping up. “What? When? Why did I not know about this?”

“It was while you were watching the target,” Lena supplies. “Jesse told me about it.”

“Why did he not tell me?” he asks, then turns on Hanzo. “Why did you not tell me!?”

“There was not anything to tell! It was not a date!” Hanzo hisses, though now he is starting to doubt that. They did go out of their way to spend time together. Maybe what Jesse said about them having had several dates already was not that far off the mark. Knowing what he knows now, that Jesse might have been thinking about the whole situation romantically just as he had, almost brings a smile to his face. Almost. “And what do you mean he told you about it?”

Lena grins. “That you called him up and you watched a movie together. How sweet and considerate it was of you to get up so early for lil’ ole him . Did you wear the gray shirt like I told you to? Did he like it?”

Hanzo momentarily stalls in his response, flustered, because even though the answer is yes he would rather not admit as much. “That is...not important. And it was not a date!”

“But it could have been!” Lena exclaims.

“Leave him alone,” replies Mei, pushing her glasses up her nose and picking up her glass of juice. “He will ask him out in his own time.”

“Not likely,” Genji says. “When we were teens he would have to be shoved at his love interests.”

“Aww, that’s so sweet! You were shy?” Lena asks.

“So shy it was painful to watch,” Genji teases.

Deciding that the whole lot of them can go jump in a river, Hanzo scowls at his companions and grabs up his tea cup. “I am ignoring all of you,” he states, which does nothing but get the others laughing.

Then they hear the singing.

“I can’t sleep at all...I’m makin’ late night calls...just to talk to you and hear your voice again…”

Hanzo’s hand stops with his cup poised at his lips, not drinking. That is most definitely Jesse’s slow drawl warbling from down the hall and quickly approaching. His companions at the table also stop what they are doing to look up in confusion, a crooked smile stretching across Lena’s face. “Speak of the devil.”

His back is to the door but Hanzo knows the moment when Jesse sweeps into the room, the volume and clarity of his singing picking up exponentially. “That flower shop on Main... knows me by my first name...and how I want the card to read and where I want the roses sent…” From the corner of his eye Hanzo can see Jesse make his way to the kitchen, fully dressed for the day and a tablet under his arm. That is right, he had a meeting with Morrison and Winston today. Jesse trails off into humming as he concentrates on pouring far too much coffee into a thermos with just a dash of cream and sugar.

“Someone’s in a good mood,” Lena says loud enough for Jesse to hear.

Genji laughs, thinking that this is making Hanzo uncomfortable. Which it is, but for entirely different reasons. “Yes. Are you having a good morning, Jesse?”

“I’m havin’ a mighty fine mornin’, mighty fine indeed,” Jesse replies, strolling over from the kitchen and coming to a stop next to Hanzo’s elbow.

Neither Jesse nor Hanzo discussed if they were keeping their budding relationship discreet, but he expected Jesse to at least show some level of tactful restraint amongst the rest of the team. In hindsight, Hanzo really should have known better. Before he can react, Jesse leans down and presses a warm kiss to his cheek, then murmurs just inches from his ear, “We still on for the practice range this afternoon?”

Not daring to risk even a sideways look at the other man, Hanzo nods, throat currently incapable of making noise.

“Lookin’ forward to it then, darlin’,” he drawls. Standing back up Jesse raises his thermos and tips his hat at the rest of the table, a wide grin on his face. “Y’all have a good day, now.” Then he is back down the hall, the twang in his voice picking up as soon as he clears the door. “ Now I'm not sayin’ I'm in love, I'd admit it if I was, I'm just sayin’ I believe you're beginning to get to me…”

As Jesse’s voice fades with the distance, Hanzo finally risks raising his wide eyes from the surface of his cooling tea to look at the others. Mei has brought a hand up to her mouth to keep the noise in, eyes huge behind her glasses. Lena’s jaw is hanging open in outright shock, mouth partially full of chewed toast. Judging by the stock-still posture of Genji, fingers poised over the tablet mid-keystroke, he imagines his brother looks equally flabbergasted. A shame he did not find out with his mask off. Hanzo gives them all a crooked smile. “I never said we have had no dates at all.”

Even though it is nearly deafening, Hanzo gets a perverse satisfaction out of the three of them squealing in unison.

 

---

 

Last night had gone well. So very, very well. Better than he ever expected. Jesse had felt this something growing between he and Hanzo for a while now, something fragile but strengthening with each passing day. Normally he would have no trouble just asking out someone he was interested in, or just having a short dalliance until they eventually moved on, but this thing with Hanzo already feels like more than that.

Hanzo is his friend. And, as depressing as it sounds, Jesse cannot say he has ever dated a friend before. If it lifts his heart this much by just a few kisses on the couch, he cannot fathom how much better it might get from here.

By the time he makes it to Winston’s lab, Jesse has moved on from singing Clay Walker to Keith Urban. He likes the acoustics down here more than in the hallway; the amplification is so much better. Almost as good as his shower stall, which heard a stellar performance as he washed that morning. Jesse does not think he is much of a singer himself, but that has never stopped him before. Especially when he is having such a fantastic start to the day.

There is a small room off to the side of the lab that used to be for mission briefings, just big enough for a strike team to all fit inside. While Overwatch was inactive Winston used it as storage but has since cleared most of the junk out. The room is now arranged back for its intended purpose other than a few boxes stacked in one of the back corners. Jesse catches sight of Winston and Morrison already seated at the table through the glass along one wall, and he strolls over, song winding down as he reaches the door.

Morrison raises an eyebrow and shakes his head as Jesse pulls out the closest chair. “Let me guess,” he says, leaning back in his own chair and assessing the younger man.“The archer?”

The grin widens as Jesse takes his seat. “The archer.”

“I had a feeling,” Morrison replies, cracking an honest smile. “He suits you.”

“You think?”

“What do you mean?” Winston asks, looking completely lost in this conversation. “The archer--you mean Hanzo? What about him?”

Morrison hikes his chin toward Jesse. “They’re dating. You are dating, right? Or whatever you call it nowadays.”

“Yeah, we are,” Jesse says, grin wide enough to show off his canines and for his cheeks to almost hurt with it.

Across the table, Winston peers wide and shocked behind his glasses back and forth between them before he settles on Jesse. “You’re...what? Since when?”

“About ten hours, I’d wager.”

Jesse’s can feel his face twist in even more amusement at the incredulous look Morrison shoots Winston’s way. “You’re seriously surprised? How have you not picked up on this? You only have to be around them for ten minutes to notice. I swear I saw cartoon hearts coming out of McCree’s eyes on that mission.”

“Oh, God, we must be bad if All-Business Jack Morrison noticed,” Jesse jokes. Morrison shrugs, not arguing the point.

Winston does not look as pleased as Jesse had hoped once the news sinks in. Not necessarily unhappy, but not the rousing congratulations Jesse expected. “Overwatch used to have rules in place against fraternization between agents,” he reluctantly states.

“They did?” Jesse asks. That is news to him. “Since when?”

“Since always,” Morrison replies. Then, awkwardly, he shrugs again. “Not exactly a rule we enforced much, to be honest.”

It is on the tip of Jesse’s tongue to make a snide comment about him and Gabe, but even he knows that would be in bad taste. As it is, he is less interested in how they handled things in the past and more interested in the here and now. “Listen, y’all know me. I might like to kid around but I ain’t goin’ to mess up a mission for somethin’ personal.”

“It is a risk,” Winston says. When Jesse tenses up and opens his mouth as if to argue, Winston continues, “But, I think you are a professional and will do what needs to be done. And Hanzo has proven he will as well. I am going to trust the two of you to continue to act professionally, no matter what happens in your personal lives.”

“Thanks, Commander,” Jesse grins.

Two seats down from him Morrison rolls his eyes, but it makes Winston smile so that is all that matters. Their commander adjusts his glasses over his nose. “Besides, it seems like an unnecessary rule, considering our numbers. All I ask is that if a major issue comes up, you come to me instead of trying to hide things. Agreed?”

“Yes, sir,” Jesse replies. Winston laughs nervously, waving away that sort of monicker. He still is not used to being referred to with that sort of authority. Mentally shifting gears, Jesse asks, “Morrison said you had an update on the files Reaper was after?”

“I do, but let’s wait on--ah, nevermind, here she is now.”

Angela makes the last few steps to the room and smiles at them all in that pleasant way she does when she is on duty, the humor never quite reaching her eyes. “Sorry I am late.”

“We were just getting started,” Winston assures as she takes the free chair next to him.

“I am not sure what it is we are meeting about,” she says, confused. “Mission planning is not my specialty.”

“In this, your expertise may well be needed. You remember when I mentioned Jesse and Genji found those medical files?”

She nods. “You said you would have me look them over after Athena was done with them, if necessary. That you thought Reaper was looking for someone or something.”

“Athena scanned all the documents and analyzed her findings. At first I was looking into the backgrounds of each person, trying to figure out if he was looking for someone in particular. A Talon operative, a political figure, anyone that has a connection worth noticing. We also looked into family and known associates. Neither of those routes panned out, so we went back to the files themselves. We were right in that most of them were medical related. Records from over a hundred people with very little in common. Close to fifty different nationalities, all age groups, all ethnicities. Not even any overlapping doctors.” Winston turns his tablet around and slides it over for the two men to see. “The only thing they had in common was their diagnoses.”

Jesse and Morrison lean forward to peer down at a list. The first two columns show the patient names and their ailments. The third has the same word repeated on each row: Terminal.

“Are any of them still alive?” Morrison asks as he pushes the tablet back over so Angela can look at it.

Winston shakes his head. “Some of the files go back almost ten years, all of them deceased. Succumbing to their illnesses.”

“So no way to find out if they have a connection to Reaper,” Jesse summarizes, fighting back a sigh. It figures that this all would lead to nothing. “Can’t even ask if they ran into him on the street."

“That’s odd,” Angela says, frowning down at the tablet and drawing their attention. Her finger drags up the screen to scroll through the diseases listed.

“What?”

“Trophoneurotic disorders, radiation exposure, various cancers, complications from gangrene...they’re all conditions that involve cellular growth or decay.” She flicks her finger back up to the top of the list. “Can I see the files?”

The verbal request triggers Athena to load the files onto the tablet in a neat stack that she can tab through. It lists both the original scans and a digital translation, helpful considering half of them were not written in a language Angela can read. Jesse tries to lean over the table to see what she is looking at but the angle catches the reflection of the overhead lights. “Growth? Isn’t cell growth a good thing?”

“Not if it’s a malignant cancer, no,” she explains, still focused on whatever it is she is looking for. “Abnormal cell growth has a higher chance of mutation. Carcinogenesis.” Her frown grows deeper with each file she looks through, troubled. “A lot of these patients developed necrosis as a symptom at some point. Abnormal.”

“Abnormal for these diseases?” Winston asks.

Angela wrinkles her nose. “Not necessarily. But it seems unlikely so many would have it on this particular list without it being important. And the treatments don’t make sense.” Putting the tablet down so they can see, she points to the file she has brought up. “This person was undergoing chemotherapy treatments as normal, then the frequency was increased substantially in the months before they died.”

Morrison blinks at her in confusion, not sure how that matters. “Don’t they usually up treatment if you’re starting to get worse?”

“Not this much. This is bordering on overdose levels of chemicals in the body. And then this one--” Angela’s fingers flick the screen to the next file, “--this patient had their chemotherapy treatments dramatically decreased, but there is no evidence that they went into remission. Nothing in the record explains such a drastic treatment change. And these aren’t the weirdest ones.”

About ten records later she turns the tablet completely around for them to read. “Look at this,” she says, pointing a long delicate finger at the screen. “This man experienced chemical burns to eighty percent of his body. Treatment was normal up until he started showing signs of gangrene in his limbs. He was scheduled for amputation to keep it from spreading, but the procedure was canceled. There is nothing in his file from that point on of them treating the gangrene. Nothing!” Angela waves a hand at the tablet in disbelief. “It is like the doctors just forgot it was even there! At least until we get to the cause of death: complications brought on by gangrene. It makes no sense!”

“What if you could talk to their doctors, see if you can get some explanation directly from them?” Jesse asks.

“Maybe. They should remember cases like this, if the patients were seen with any sort of regularity,” Angela replies, turning the tablet back around to flick idly through the files again, hoping something else jumps out at her. “Tracking down that many doctors and convincing them to talk about confidential patient information will take a while.”

“Athena, begin compiling a contact list for these treating physicians,” Winston says, knowing his request will be followed without more input. He drums his meaty fingers against the surface of the table. “Would it be possible that the families had anything to say about the treatments?”

Angela shakes her head. “It would be noted in the documentation. And none of them would have the authority to up dosages. I mean...this woman had near-lethal doses of Bevacizumab. Far too much to even be considered an effective treatment. It is like they were actively poisoning her.”

She looks up and Jesse notices how distressed she looks with the thought, so he reaches over to take the tablet from her hands. The information on the screen is next to meaningless to him, but he scrolls through it anyway. “Why would someone actively try to sabotage a patient’s treatment?”

“I don’t know,” she replies.

From overhead Athena’s disembodied voice fills the room. “Your previous request cannot be completed. There are multiple anomalies with the available data.”

“What sort of anomalies?” Winston asks, frowning.

“The names listed on the medical records for the patient’s treating physicians correspond with no known living persons. I can find no evidence that they worked for the hospitals in question and, upon further investigation, cannot find birth certificates, social security numbers, medical school credentials, marriage certificates, death certificates--”

“For how many names on the list?”

“All of them.”

Jesse curses and plucks his hat off his head to toss down onto the table. “What, are you sayin’ they’re all fake?”

“That would be the logical conclusion, Agent McCree.”

“Well what the hell are we supposed to do now?” Jesse exclaims to the room at large, not really expecting an answer. Next to him Morrison pinches the bridge of his nose. There is a long moment where the four of them look at each other across the short expanse of metal table between them, at a loss as to what to do or where to go next. Without context there is nothing to go on for leads. It is another dead end.

Winston clears his throat and straightens from the slump his shoulders had fallen into. “There is no need to figure this out immediately. It’s possible there’s something here we aren’t seeing. Angela, I want you to go over the records one by one and see if you can find any other clues that we would miss. Athena and I will track down the patient’s families and try to get some answers there. In the meantime, we’ll keep pushing at Talon. If we’re lucky Reaper will reveal something along the way.”

Jesse scoffs under his breath and mutters, “Fat chance,” before he can stop himself. Morrison shoots him a sharp look, puzzled by the quick reply, and it is only then that Jesse remembers that he was busy thinking about Reaper as Gabriel, and how Gabriel was trained better than to blab about personal matters in the middle of battle. Probably. Unless it was to fuss at Morrison. Or himself. The point being, his theory is his own and they do not know it, so he presses on as if he did not speak. “These documents were found in a Talon safehouse. Is it possible they would have more like this? If we could find more they might have the key we’re looking for.”

“I’ll look into it. It’s possible, but I wouldn’t know where to start,” Winston says, taking the tablet back from him. “From now on, any Talon-related mission needs to have document-recovery as a priority.”

“Do you have somethin’ for us?” Jesse asks.

“I do, but before we get into that, we’ve gotten a request for assistance from China.” Folding his hands in front of him, Winston asks, “You have some experience with smuggling, don’t you?”

 

---

 

Despite their mission-planning meeting running long and swinging by the kitchen for a sandwich, Jesse still manages to beat Hanzo to the practice range. For the few short minutes he spends checking over Peacekeeper, he irrationally thinks that Hanzo is not going to show. That between this morning and right now Hanzo decided that this whole thing with Jesse McCree was a bad idea and he should just pretend it never happened. It is a stupid thing to think, and he knows it when he is thinking it, but what can he say? Jesse has a suspicion that in his psychiatric evaluation abandonment issues would be written in big bold letters.

Besides, Hanzo said this morning he would be here. Well, he nodded it, anyway. That still counts. He is going to say that counts. It does count, right?

He can chalk all this nervousness up to his ponderings on Gabe and talks about his questionable past and be done with it. Pushing the intrusive thoughts aside, Jesse takes a few practice shots at the targets across the room and instantly feels better. The familiarity of the gun in his hand, the movements he barely gives thought to anymore, every shot as natural as breathing. There are few things in life that ground him so easily.

“Nice shot.”

Jesse raises an eyebrow at the welcome sound of Hanzo’s voice and he turns, smile already forming. “Well, I do try my best,” he says, pushing his hat back on his head.

There Hanzo is, strolling forward from the doorway, bow in one hand and quiver on his back. He has changed over to his practice kyudo gi, the fabric a soft emerald green that Jesse thinks looks unfairly good on Hanzo’s frame. Then again, he thinks Hanzo looks unfairly good in pretty much any outfit he wears. This one, though, he never wears to battle; too flashy, he once told Jesse. It was during a training session earlier in their friendship, and he had looked with mild distaste as Lúcio had gone skating by. Now he thinks Hano has a better grasp of how loud and in-your-face has its place on the battlefield just as much as dark and stealthy.

A slight smile plays along Hanzo’s lips for a moment but he schools his features, trying to look stern. The humor still dances in his eyes. “I hope you know how much trouble you caused me.”

“Trouble?” Jesse asks, thrown for a moment. “And here I thought I’d stayed out of trouble this mornin’.”

“Genji and I never even made it out of the base,” Hanzo states, coming to a stop a few feet from Jesse with his bow securely held in both hands before him. He gives Jesse a pointed look and the cowboy gets it. His smile turns into a cocky grin.

“Oh. That. He givin’ you a hard time?”

“That is...putting it mildly,” Hanzo replies. The soft flush that spreads across Hanzo’s features at that makes Jesse holster Peacekeeper and take a step forward himself. “It was hard enough escaping Mei and Lena, but Genji was a pest about it all morning.”

“I hear siblings are like that,” Jesse says, trying to look properly chastised but knowing he is failing abysmally at it. Hanzo can see right through him.

“You will get to find out soon enough. He has plans to confront you, from the way he talked.” He shifts from one foot to the other, embarrassed. “I think he wants to both congratulate you and threaten your life.”

Jesse barks a laugh, looking off to the side. “I hear siblings are like that,” he says again, feeling unexpectedly pleased. Defending your brother’s honor must be a sign that things are going well between them. A welcome change. He glances back at Hanzo. “You mad?”

“You could have warned me.” Hanzo swings the bow to the side and takes the last few steps up to Jesse, a hand settling on his waist right above the leather of his belt. “But no, I am not mad.”

Whatever worries Jesse may have entertained disperse like fog in the sun as Hanzo tips his face up for a kiss. Jesse meets him halfway and slides their mouths together slowly, the warm press of lips nearly chaste if not for the way Hanzo’s mouth opens right at the end, a little flick of his tongue over Jesse’s bottom lip before they pull apart. His prosthetic somehow found its way around Hanzo’s waist to settle in the small of his back and he does not let the shorter man step back. Not yet. “You know, it could have been a lot worse; that’s how I would have preferred to greet you this morning,” he murmurs.

Hanzo’s eyes flick from Jesse’s down to his lips and back again, a glance Jesse could not possibly miss. “Let us keep things at least somewhat professional in front of the other agents?”

“We’re not in front of the other agents now,” he points out, leaning in for another, longer kiss. Hanzo allows it, his free hand coming up to rest on Jesse’s chest, palm sliding up to hold his shoulder. Kissing a sexy fella in the middle of the practice range, the smell of gunpowder in the air? Oh, Jesse could get used to this. “You know they’re like my family, right? They wouldn’t care one way or the other, right?”

“But I do,” Hanzo states. Jesse pulls his head back slightly at the rebuke, and Hanzo’s eyes soften as he realizes how sharp that came out. “At least, for now. I am not used to my personal life being on display for everyone to see.”

“That’s fair. I can do my best, darlin’. You make it right difficult to keep my hands to myself, but I’ll try my best.” Jesse moves his metal fingers in soothing circles in the small of Hanzo’s back, comforting and solid. “Though, that might be a tall order for this bunch. I’d wager all of Overwatch knows by now.”

A little furrow forms between Hanzo’s brows. “What do you mean?”

“Well,” he drawls, tilting his head to consider who knew first. “Winston and Morrison told Angela about thirty seconds after we finished up our meetin’, earlier. By the way, Winston didn’t even have a clue, you should’a seen his face, it was priceless. Then you said you spent the mornin’ with Genji so I reckon he only got around to tellin’ Zenyatta. Which is frankly better than normal for Genji; your brother gossips like he learned to whisper in a saw mill. Anyway, Zarya knows everything Mei knows, so she would have told Zarya, and I think this is one of her and Reinhardt’s workout days so he probably knows by now, too. Which leaves Lena, who can’t keep a damn secret to save her life when it comes to somethin’ she thinks is cute. She would have told Fareeha--shit, I’ve got to talk to her now, she’s gonna beat me for not tellin’ her first. They’ll probably scream for about an hour, and whoever is in their vicinity will find out. Torb, maybe, or Satya. Bastion’s started hangin’ out down in the workshop a little more, at least when Satya’s workin’. Then him and Lúcio are best buddies now, of course, but I don’t know how much of a gossip that omnic might be. But if Lúcio finds out, there’s nothin’ he keeps from--”

Hana shoves her way through the doors to the practice range with enough force to swing them into the walls with a loud clang. She points at the two of them, arms still around each other, and screams triumphantly, “I KNEW IT!”

Jesse does not take it too personally when Hanzo jerks his arms back like he has been stung, taking a single half-step away. After all, if Hanzo wants to keep things private, having Hana Song shouting their love life to the rafters is about as far from private as you can get. The blatant exclamation brings a flush to both their faces. “Afternoon, Hana,” Jesse greets, tugging his hat down as the shorter woman stomps up to them. His prosthetic stays tucked along the small of Hanzo’s back and the archer does not try to twist them further apart.

“I knew it,” she says, pointing to each of them in turn. “Lúcio thought I was crazy, but I knew! You guys earned me free dinner and a movie and the new headphones I’ve been eyeing!”

She holds up her hand for a high-five and Jesse automatically returns it, long trained by Genji to never leave a high-five hanging. It just makes Hanzo drop his face into his free hand in embarrassment. Or perhaps pity. “You know way too much about everyone’s gossiping habits.”

“It pays to be observant,” Jesse grins.

“Heck yeah it does!” Hana agrees, crossing her arms in front of her to look the two over. “About time, too. Genji thought you’d never--”

“I think I’ve heard enough,” Hanzo practically squeaks, now twisting from Jesse’s hold and striding toward one of the firing lanes. He keeps his gaze resolutely forward, probably to hide his mortification.

Jesse covers his mouth a moment to stifle his mirth then uses it to smooth out his beard; he would like to pick up where he and Hanzo left off after Hana leaves, and laughter seems to be the fastest way of curtailing those kinds of activities. Best to change the subject. “Surely you didn’t come all the way up here just to crow about your winnings.”

Hana scoffs, offended. “I do not crow!” she...well, crows. Crossing her arms indignantly, she says, “I might have come up to say congrats, since you guys have been dancing around each other for like WEEKS now, but now I just won’t even bother!”

“Well, that is sweet of you,” Jesse says, sweeping his hat off to tuck against his chest. “Thank you, miss Song, thank you kindly.”

She huffs out a laugh, giving his shoulder a push. “Save it for your man, cowboy.”

They glance over at Hanzo, whose shoulders are drawn up tight as he steadfastly ignores them in favor of drawing an arrow and taking aim. Shaking his head, Jesse flips his hat back onto his head by the brim. “It’s just as well you came by; we can talk about our mission tomorrow.”

“Mission? What mission?” Hana asks, digging a pack of bubblegum from her pocket.

“You should have a brief about it in your messages. We’re runnin’ escort for a gold shipment through hostile territory. Squirreling it through enemy lines. Me, you, Lúcio, Fareeha, Zenyatta, and Hanzo.” He shakes his head when Hana offers him a piece of gum. “We’ll be headin’ out tomorrow morning.”

“Where?”

“China. Nanning.”

Hana’s eyes go shuddered, face turning more serious. “That area has been pretty rough since the Omnic Crisis. We can expect at least some combat.” She pops the gum into her mouth and begins to chew thoughtfully. “Mei isn’t coming?”

“She’s workin’ on somethin’ here in the labs. Besides, I don’t think she’d function too well seein’ the area first-hand. Not for this mission.” Jesse, Winston, and Morrison had thought long and hard on the subject and decided it was too much of a liability. The region of Guangxi was the staging grounds of many an omnic assault on the rest of China. With Mei still in training for tough combat, they could not justify sending her into a place where she could be emotionally compromised.

“You don’t think we should take Bastion on this one? His turret came in awful handy last mission.”

“I think he’s still technically on probation,” Jesse replies, scratching his jaw. “No long missions until he’s worked into the rotation better. I would of liked it, that’s for sure. Or Torbjörn, but he’s hard as hell to get out of the workshop and on a damn mission. Always more interested in makin’ stuff than using it. Guess you and Fareeha will have to bring the big guns.”

She sighs and nods, understanding. “I think we’ll have it covered.” Then she finally seems to pick up on what they are escorting. “Gold? Why gold?”

“Yes, I was wondering that, too,” Hanzo says, taking another shot at the targets down the lane. Seems his embarrassment is not enough to keep him from work talk. “An odd target to be protecting, is it not?”

“Yeah, I ain’t too sure about the why’s of that one,” Jesse replies, pivoting so he can see them both. “Moving it out of the way as some sort of favor for the government, I think? They’ve tried to move it using a convoy a couple of times, but they’re always attacked. I guess they think we can slip it past their enemies easier since we’re less recognizable.” He glances between the well-known ex-yakuza and the well-known celebrity. “Or maybe they’re just delusional. Either way, it’s a favor to the Chinese government and it will gain us a little bargaining power as an organization.”

“Sounds skeevy,” Hana says, wrinkling her nose as she smacks her gum. “I hate politics.”

Hanzo gives a sharp laugh at that. “That is something we can agree on.” He draws another arrow from his quiver and glances back at them. “How far do we need to move this gold?”

“From Nanning to Kunming, in Yunnan,” Jesse says, the foreign words sounding odd rolling off his tongue in a southern drawl. “Little over ten hours by vehicle, and I’m not sure how easy it’s going to be to travel through that area. We’ll have to play it by ear.”

“You better have a good cover for us,” Hanzo states, drawing the string back and taking aim. “If it is so much gold to require escort from Overwatch, it will draw a lot of attention.”

“I’ll have somethin’ put together by the time we get there.” Hanzo fires, the arrow embedding in the target about half an inch above the last. Gorgeous. He would say so if Hana was not standing there. “We can talk about it over dinner tonight.”

“Sure thing, I’ll let everyone know,” Hana says. Jesse looks over at her sharply; a group dinner was not exactly what he had been implying. She blows a bubble about as big as her fist, ignoring him in favor of watching Hanzo take another shot, this one just as impressive as the last. It is not until Hanzo is about to let loose another arrow that she speaks again. “Oh, and you guys need to, like, totally kiss in front of everyone.”

The projectile clips the edge of the target and deflects to hit the back wall, skittering along the floor and coming to rest well down the line behind the other targets. Jesse has to press his prosthetic over his mouth to hold back his laughter when Hanzo whirls to look incredulously at Hana. She holds both hands up in defense. “Or at least in front of Genji and Lúcio! We got a bet going!”  In lieu of answering Hanzo just pulls another arrow, eyes on her. It is intimidating enough that she makes a hasty retreat toward the door, screaming back over her shoulder, “Just make it quick! If it’s in the next two days I get five hundred bucks!”

She is out the door before either man can say more, and Jesse finally lets out a little snicker of laughter. “Now, don’t be mad, darlin’, she’s just happy for us.”

“It is embarrassing!” Hanzo exclaims, tight grip on his bow loosening. “Did you know they were betting?”

“Not a bit.”

Hanzo grumbles, turning back and aiming more carefully this time. “This is all Genji’s doing, I’m sure of it.”

Waiting until Hanzo fires, Jesse walks up behind him and puts his hands on Hanzo’s shoulders. They tense, just a moment, before relaxing again. Jesse squeezes them soothingly. “I’m pretty dang happy for us, too.”

“You are sentimental,” Hanzo says. Jesse can hear the smile in his voice, even if he cannot see it.

“You bring it out of me.”

Looking over his shoulder and confirming he is indeed smiling, Hanzo rolls his eyes and uses his elbow to push Jesse away. “We are supposed to be practicing. Do not think this will get you out of our competitions. I am ahead, if I recall.”

Allowing Hanzo his space, Jesse takes up residence in the firing lane right next to him. They usually put a few lanes between them--typical firing range etiquette--and he can tell Hanzo is amused that he is choosing to stay close instead. “You ain’t ahead by much, so don’t get too comfortable.”

“Same stakes?”

Usually they play for bragging rights (which mean nothing to anyone but themselves) and a bottle of the alcohol of their choice. A fun competition without much losing involved. “I don’t know, maybe we should up the ante.”

“Oh?” Hanzo goes to quickly collect his arrows, yanking them free one by one from the target. “Feeling lucky today, gunslinger?”

“Always,” he grins, loading Peacekeeker and securing it in his holster. “Why, you scared?”

Hanzo laughs, full and clear. “Hardly,” he replies. Once he has all his ammo retrieved he walks back. “What did you have in mind?”

“Hmm,” Jesse draws out an exaggerated hum, hooking a thumb in his belt loop. Hanzo’s eyes openly follow the motion, which does nothing but spurn Jesse on. “I’m thinkin’, I win, you take me out for coffee next time we got a free afternoon.”

“Take you out for coffee,” Hanzo repeats. Not what he was expecting, if his tone is anything to go by. “And when I win?

“If,” he says, emphasis on the word. “If you win, which, I might add, is unlikely, I will take you out for coffee the next time we got a free afternoon.”

Hanzo raises an eyebrow, cocky grin going a little softer around the edges. “Sounds like a win-win scenario.”

“Yeah but braggin’ rights say I win.”

There is that warm laugh again, the one that Jesse is coming to think of as all for him. Hanzo twirls an arrow between his fingers. “You’re on, cowboy.”

 

---

 

The competition ends with a victory for Hanzo, but Jesse would hardly count it as a loss. There is no one he would rather lose to, which is what he tells Hanzo when the last arrow lands near-perfect in the bullseye. To celebrate his win Hanzo pulls Jesse down by the hem of his serape and they spend a blissful ten minutes sitting on one of the benches against the wall exploring each other’s mouths. Maybe longer, it is hard to tell since they are not really keeping an eye on the time.

But duty calls soon enough, the responsibilities of planning travel, accommodations, and their prospective route pulling Jesse away for most of the day. Hanzo does not mind; he has his own preparations to tend to, and he is not the type to sit idle and pine for time together when they have jobs to do. He was not oblivious to Jesse’s desire to have dinner that night just the two of them, but sure enough they find themselves dining with the other members of their team discussing mission-specifics and planning accordingly. There is a feeling of expectation over the whole meal, Hana keeping her eyes on the two of them and, Hanzo assumes, hoping that they will suddenly start making out in front of the group. Ridiculous. Jesse keeps finding reasons to lean over close to Hanzo only to pull away at the last moment, amusing himself by making her growl in frustration. It makes Hanzo want to react the same way, if for different reasons. Despite outward appearances, Jesse keeps his knee slotted up against Hanzo’s under the table for the entirety of dinner. At least Jesse is honoring his wish to stay discreet and keep things slow.

Though all this teasing is making Hanzo regret that last part.

Fareeha snags Jesse by the arm before he and Hanzo can retreat from the group, dragging him off citing things they need to discuss right now . Hanzo has a feeling that Jesse is about to get the same treatment he got from Genji earlier. He still is not entirely sure about the family-like dynamics Jesse shares with the older agents in Overwatch. Jesse always talks so vaguely about it all, half-comments or anecdotes here and there about his relationships with Reyes, Morrison, and Ana Amari. Whatever his relationship with the last has left Jesse with a sort-of little sister. So interesting considering when Hanzo first met Fareeha she seemed so completely stoic and reserved.

Her grin as she hauls off with Jesse is far from reserved, coming closer to the sinister amusement that only younger siblings seem to have. McCree complains--loudly--but lets himself be led away, calling a goodnight to Hanzo over his shoulder. Hanzo has to settle for Jesse blowing a kiss to him before they disappear around the corner, his voice squawking about how he was going to remember this the next time Fareeha started dating. Any disappointment is drowned out by his own laughter as he heads to bed.

Fifteen hours later their small squad finds themselves landing in Nanning, Guangxi, China. It becomes clear once they are on the ground why their presence is needed; evidence was found of possible corruption in the government which would explain why any previous attempts at moving the gold were unsuccessful. To combat this, any knowledge of Overwatch’s involvement in the movement of the gold is limited to just a handful of people on either side of the border between the provinces. It means trying to keep a low profile and not drawing the attention of anyone, good or bad.

“Alright,” Jesse says as he hangs up the old-style style landline. Hanzo did not know they even had those around anymore. “Looks like we need to lay low until tomorrow. The gold will be loaded up in trucks by then and we’ll head out at first light.”

“Do we have to stay here?” Hana asks, looking around with a pained expression.

The safehouse is certainly less than ideal. An empty, crumbling three-story building that used to be an apartment complex sometime long ago, before the first Omnic Crisis if Hanzo could guess. From the outside it looks like maybe four families lived there at most, and it looks positively miniscule compared to the buildings around it. There is evidence of mortar damage on the top floor, and it probably would have been left to a demolition crew if Overwatch had not quietly come in and purchased the property. The bottom floor has a lobby area where the six of them now stand with nothing but the phone and a few couches to indicate there was ever anyone here at all. That and Hana’s MEKA, which will need to be moved out of sight until tomorrow.

“The upstairs ain’t that bad,” Jesse insists, hefting his duffel onto his shoulder. The rest do the same and follow him toward the stairwell in the corner. “Probably needs a bit of dusting, but there’ll be a roof over your head. What more could you ask for?”

“Wi-fi,” comes Hana’s immediate response.

“I am sure it will be adequate,” Zenyatta says as he uses the soft glow from his orbs to illuminate the stairwell.

Hana huffs. “Easy for you to say; you travel light.”

“Is that a crack at me? Cause I get the feeling it’s a crack at me,” Lúcio says. He has a backpack over his shoulder, a bag on one arm and a hard case under the other, big enough that he has to waddle his way up the stairs. An impressive feat considering he is also teetering on his skates.

“You did bring an awful lot with you,” Fareeha points out.

“I need it!” he exclaims, voice echoing up the stairwell. He gets shushed by the others so he hisses out the rest in a harsh whisper. “I’m testing out some new material, and it might help to improve accuracy! Heavy with the bass, it’s going to be great, trust me. Hanzo, Hanzo, my man, you gotta back me up on this. Imagine taking out targets from like half a mile away with some sick beats keeping your hands steady!”

“It is intriguing,” Hanzo allows, bringing up the rear. “But I hardly think you will be effective trying to move through battle with all this equipment.”

“It’s just to make sure the tracks work in the field. I figure, we’ll be on a moving truck, I can test it there. I’m messing with my amplifier but it needs a few tweaks before it can handle this kind of power.”

“A’ight, y’all hush for a minute,” Jesse says, voice low. Hazno cannot see what he is doing from his position down the stairs, but he can hear when Jesse curses and draws his gun. The rest of them fall silent. Mostly silent.

“What is it?” Hana whispers.

“Door’s been breached,” he replies. “Stay here.”

Hanzo has already dropped to one knee to pull his bow from the guitar case. “McCree, wait--”

By the time he is armed Jesse has already disappeared into the building, and the others scramble to get a weapon at the ready just in case it is needed. Hanzo has half a mind to push through the others and follow Jesse into the dim shadows of the hall. Instead he turns and keeps watch back down the stairs from which they came. This was a mistake. A foolish mistake. If someone noticed them, if they became cornered in this narrow stairwell--

“Y’all can come on in,” Jesse calls from further in the building. “We’re alone!”

The group lets out a collective breath. Or, in Zenyatta’s case, his floating resumes a more leisurely bobbing motion. “Allow me to help you with that,” he says, taking the bag from under Lúcio’s arm.

Jesse is standing in the middle of a large, hollowed out interior room just beyond the hallway. The group looks around the dark space only lit by the weak sunlight filtering through dirty windows partially covered by thick curtains. It does not look much better than downstairs, the only plus side being this furniture is protected by plastic covers and a television sits on a stand in one corner. The whole place smells faintly of mold and stale air.

“It smells like something died in here,” Hana comments.

“Dude, don’t say that, I don’t even want to know,” Lúcio counters, shuffling half a step closer so his arm is pressed against hers, as if her mere presence will keep whatever nasties might be in the darkness away.

Jesse holds out his arms in an all-encompassing gesture. “It ain’t much, but it’s only for the night. We got a kitchen and a bathroom, the furniture in here and the empty top floor.”

Lúcio and Hana exchange a look. “What are we supposed to do until tomorrow?” he asks.

“We’ll get this place clean enough for sleepin’ and I’ll double-check that everything is ready for tomorrow. Other than that, you’re all free to do as you like as long as you don’t draw attention to yourselves or the safehouse. No raves, a’ight?”

They disperse to explore the limited space and Hanzo comes up to Jesse. “You have stayed here before?”

“Once or twice. It got a lot more use way back when.”

“You said there was an upstairs?”

“Yeah.” Jesse grabs up his duffel and nods for Hanzo to follow.

The upstairs loft is barely a room at all. No furniture, no personal effects. There is not even a door for privacy, the room opening up so that it looks down on the floor below. Just a roof, walls, and windows facing out toward the street. Hanzo walks to the window and stands just to the side, reaching out to push the curtain slightly out of the way and look without showing himself. “Good sight lines.”

Jesse hums in agreement. “That’s what Ana used to say.”

Hanzo glances over at him. He is looking at the window, not Hanzo, eyes unfocused. Momentarily lost in memories. Hanzo wonders if he is seeing the Ana Amari from long ago, standing with her rifle cradled against her chest, checking the rooftops for enemy positions as he just did. “I would like to sleep up here tonight.”

“You sure?” Jesse asks, blinking out of it. He hooks his thumb over his shoulder. “I can snag you a couch. Or somehow throw together a bed, if you’d rather? I don’t want you to be uncomfortable.”

“I can bring up some pillows. It will make me feel better, being able to see out like this,” he admits.

Jesse does not look surprised. “Oh. Well, in that case,” and he drops his duffel down on the floor. “Better go get us some blankets before all the good stuff gets taken.”

“You do not have to join me,” Hanzo says, dropping the curtain and turning toward him. “There is no reason for us both to--”

“Hanzo, I can think of more than a few reasons to join you up here,” Jesse says with a wink and a grin. “Unless you’d rather I leave you to your lonesome, in which case--”

“Hush.” He puts his things down next to Jesse’s and turns to address the state of the curtains, mostly to keep Jesse from seeing him smile. “I do not want to hear you complaining about your back all day tomorrow.”

“Not a peep,” Jesse promises before disappearing down the stairs again.

Hanzo bites his lip. Well, the setting is not exactly what he envisioned for his first night spent with Jesse, but it will do.

They have things clean enough to be comfortable in no time. Hana, Lúcio, and Fareeha drag the scattered furniture into a semi-circle around the television with the plan to sleep around it that night. And, despite Zenyatta insisting he needs no such comforts, they go out of their way to arrange a little pallet so that he can meditate seated if he wishes. Hanzo can tell that Zenyatta finds the sentiment endearing. While Jesse scours the rest of the building making sure that exits are secure, Hanzo takes the time to arrange blankets and pillows for them to sleep on that night. He also frets over the state of the curtains, arranging them so he can easily perch out of sight but still look up and down the street. He does not like that there is a taller apartment building across the street with an obstructed roof, but there is nothing to be done for it.

“Okay,” Jesse begins to talk as he tromps up the stairs. “The front entrance is locked up tight. I checked the two doors at the back and it looks like someone jimmied the lock at some point, but that was an easy fix. I piled a load of boxes from the alleyway in front of it so if anyone tries to get in there we’ll hear. The back left door is the one we should take comin’ and goin’ and I made sure everyone knows how to get the lock open without the key.” By that point Jesse is all the way up the stairs and flips his hat off his head and down onto his duffel. “Are you still fussin’ about that building?”

“A sniper could easily take position behind that scaffolding. We would be at a disadvantage.” Hanzo turns to argue the point further but stalls as he watches Jesse bend over to rifle through his bag, pulling tightly-folded clothes from within. The position pulls his jeans nug against his legs and sticks his ass up in the air. It makes Hanzo momentarily forget what he was talking about.

“We’re gonna keep the light to a minimum tonight, and I don’t think anyone is lookin’ for us. At least not yet, anyway.” He straightens and turns to address Hanzo directly. “And we ain’t hangin’ out here all afternoon. Meet you downstairs in ten.”

“What?” Hanzo rolls up to his knees from where he was crouched by the window. The other man ignores the question, heading back downstairs presumably to change. “Where are we going?”

“I owe you a date, sugar!”

Hanzo flushes hot as he hears a smattering of giggles from the others. When he looks over the edge of the stairs he can see Hana and Fareeha smirking up at him from the floor below. “We are on a mission , McCree,” he hisses, glaring at the man’s back.

“We have nothing better to do,” Fareeha points out to him. Jesse walks past her and she smirks as he disappears into the bathroom to change. She and Hana appear to be getting ready themselves, Hana exchanging her sensible boots for a pair of sandals. “We’re going to be cooped up in a truck all day tomorrow; might as well walk while we can.”

“Maybe we could meet up for dinner?” Hana suggests.

“Probably not a good idea with you and Lúcio along.”

From the kitchen Lúcio comes out wearing a large, baggy hoodie. His dreadlocks are no longer in his trademark high ponytail, instead hanging down around his neck and sticking out the sides of the fabric. His skates are also missing, switched over to plain sneakers. “Hey, I can do incognito! No one will recognize me!”

Hana looks at him in mild surprise. “I can’t believe you even own clothing that isn’t neon.”

“Hardy har har,” he replies and shoves his hands in his pockets. “And now, allow me to introduce the newly hip and cool, Zenyatta Mondatta!” Lúcio bows to the side and Zenyatta pokes his head out first before walking--walking on his legs, not floating as they have all come to expect--into the room. Fareeha lets out a wolf whistle that has all of them, including Zenyatta, laughing. Lúcio’s extra pair of shorts are a little shorter than they probably should be, falling above Zenyatta’s knees rather than below, but since his hips are so narrow they hang low enough for it not to be noticeable. The graphic t-shirt must be Lúcio’s, too, judging by the splash of neon green and words written in Portuguese on it.

“Wow, Zenny, looking good!” Hana exclaims, whipping out her phone in seconds. “You have to let me get a selfie!”

The omnic looks down at himself and laughs again good-naturedly. “I do not see how this will keep me from being noticed,” he says as Hana tucks up against his side and holds her phone out to take the picture.

“It’s less noticeable than floating down the street as a monk,” Fareeha states.

Their voices fade as the others make their way downstairs and Hanzo moves back to his bag, wondering if he should change. He is wearing a comfortable blue v-neck that adequately hides his tattoo and a pair of dark jeans with boots, nothing particularly eye-catching or recognizable. Looking good for McCree is not a good enough excuse to risk unwanted attention. Maybe he could put on--

“So. You and Jesse, huh?”

Hanzo whips his head around to find Fareeha has scaled the stairs. How on earth did she make it up those rickety things without making any noise? She is currently leaning nonchalantly against the wall, hands tucked in the pockets of her leather jacket. But as relaxed as she seems her eyes are calculating, assessing, as if she can weigh and measure him with just a look alone.

Feeling suddenly vulnerable, Hanzo stands again. She is still taller, but at least he is no longer kneeling on the floor. “So it seems.”

“He likes you, a lot,” she says. As if Hanzo does not know. “Taken a shine to you, as he might say.”

“It is mutual,” he replies after a little hesitation.

“That’s good. We were worried. Not that we don’t think you’re a nice guy, but, you know. We had a rocky start with you.”

Hanzo nods. “I was difficult, or worse. You do not have to soften your words.”

“Alright, you were an asshole. But, then again, so was Genji when he first showed up, so maybe we should have expected it.”

“I hope I am making amends for my past behavior.”

She shrugs. “We’re not talking about that, we’re talking about you shacking up with Jesse.”

Hanzo can feel his face heat. He has not socialized with Fareeha as much as the others. Not on purpose, mainly because their schedules always seem to be just that small amount off to not be in the same place at the same time. They have small talk on missions if she happens to be near whatever rooftop he is perched on, but even then only if things are slow and she can risk landing near his position. Hearing her talk so casually about he and Jesse’s newfound relationship is particularly uncomfortable. “I do not see how that is any of your business,” he says tightly, crossing his arms. He definitely feels on the defensive now. “But we are not shacking up . Even if we were it would not be your problem. But we are not.”

“Easy! No disrespect intended,” she says, holding up a hand placatingly. “I just worry about him. He’s a good guy, and I like seeing him happy. So just don’t screw it up.”

“Noted,” he replies.

Fareeha tilts her head and smiles. “You know that if you fuck this up, there will be a line of people waiting to kick your ass, right?”

“The thought had crossed my mind,” he admits. It had been one of the many reasons he had been worried about ever revealing his feelings to the cowboy. Hanzo is not foolish enough to think that he has more favor with Overwatch than Jesse McCree. If things went badly between them, he is under no illusions who they would prefer to leave. “I take it you would be first in line?”

“Ha! No, I think you’ll do alright,” she says, pushing off the wall to stand straight. “I’m not the one you need to worry about.” Fareeha gives a lazy salute and turns for the stairs, having said her short piece and issued her vague warning. Halfway down she meets Jesse and Hanzo can hear her teasing words, “Have fun on your date,” as they pass.

“Yeah, yeah, you’re just jealous,” Jesse replies, which makes her chuckle again before leaving to catch up with the others. He has put on a soft heather gray undershirt with his red plaid flannel hanging open over it, and has replaced his signature serape with a bandana tied around his neck. It seems like it would still be too hot in the muggy afternoon air. He clears the stairs and drops his other shirt on his open duffel. “You ready to go?”

Hanzo nods, placing his bow back in the guitar case and hoisting it over his shoulder. He may go into Gibraltar without his storm bow but there is no way he will leave it here while on a mission. “Do you know where we are going?”

“Course I do. There’s bound to be a Kofi Aromo somewhere around here.” It is not until they get down to the ground level and Jesse is locking the door after them that he asks, “Fareeha didn’t give you a hard time, did she?”

“Her words were ominous,” Hanzo says, falling in step as he and Jesse walk the back alleyways toward one of the main thoroughfares. “But not as threatening as I imagined them to be.”

“That’s Fareeha,” Jesse laughs, checking his phone’s GPS to make sure they are going the right way.

“What did she say to you last night?”

“Oh, you know, she asked how we got together, when did it start, if I was treatin’ you right, if you were a good kisser, all that good juicy stuff. I’m sure it’s the same things Genji asked you. Didn’t he?”

Hanzo finally cracks a smile, keeping his eyes on the path ahead of them. “He did.”

“What’d you tell him? That I swept you off your feet?”

“That you were adequate.”

“Adequate! Ouch, darlin’! And here I thought we had somethin’ good going!”

His smile grows to a grin and he looks up at Jesse. “And that you told me the popcorn recipe. He said he would never forgive you.”

Jesse laughs loud and happy and throws his arm around Hanzo’s shoulders, bringing him to walk closer than before. Their hips knock together until their steps fall in sync. It is the easiest thing in the world for the arm trapped between them to wind around Jesse’s waist. “Only after me for my culinary skills. I should have known.”

“Well, what did you tell her about me, then?” Hanzo counters.

“Darlin’, I could sing your praises for hours and not run out of things to say.” He punctuates that with a loud smacking kiss to the side of his head that has Hanzo laughing and twisting his head away, wiping the slight dampness from his skin. “Also, Genji already paid me his own little visit. Dropped by my room at about three in the mornin’ to give me a spook. I have no doubt what he’ll do to me if I break your heart.”

Surprised, Hanzo looks up questioningly. “What did he say?”

“Just a straightforward death threat, then a demonstration of what he can do with that katana.”

“A demonstration?”

Jesse hums. “Yeah. He did things to one of Reinhardt’s bratwursts that no man should see.” He shudders, like reliving a vivid nightmare, before shaking his head. “Then he gave me a high five and told me he never, ever wanted to hear any details.”

Hanzo squints up at him. “You are going to give him details, are you not? Just to mess with him?”

He starts to answer but pauses, raising an eyebrow and looking down at Hanzo. “I guess it depends on what sort of details we get up to.”

A light blush spreads across Hanzo’s cheeks as he realizes what he just implied. He ducks his head and Jesse chuckles, allowing him to ignore that comment. “After yesterday I am starting to see that any discretion on our part is going to be a waste.”

Jesse spreads his fingers in a warm circle on Hanzo’s shoulder, digging gently into his muscles. “Don’t worry, sug, I’m just jokin’ around. Tell you the truth, I’m more private about that sort of thing than I let on. Never been big on kissin’ and tellin’.”

That is good to hear at least. Hanzo had assumed for the longest time that Jesse would be the type to talk about the notches in his bedpost, as it were, but the cowboy has hardly ever brought up past relationships. When he has it was always in an abstract way, stories about someone he used to date but never naming names or going into identifying details. The same way he talks about everything else in his past, the people that were important to him, family. Private. The longer Hanzo knows him, the more he realizes just how private he is. Jesse hides a lot of things behind the pomp and flash of his loud gun and colorful serape.

He mulls this over as they walk out onto the sidewalk headed toward the downtown shops. The main road is bustling with people and Jesse is dividing his attention between navigating the crowds and following his GPS. Dressed as they are, the only odd looks they get are from those that are not used to seeing a tall American in their midsts. Jesse even left his hat behind, which Hanzo is still trying to wrap his head around. The lack of hat is easier to accept in the confines of the Watchpoint, but out here in the open? For all he is a good foot taller than most of the others around him, he looks almost smaller, gentler without it. And Hanzo never realized that Jesse had strands of red mixed in with his dusty brown hair until their color catches in the sunlight.

“There it is,” Jesse says, looking up and spotting the familiar gold and white sign of a lion’s silhouette just down the sidewalk. He keeps his hand on Hanzo’s back until they get to the cafe door, which he holds open like a gentleman before following Hanzo inside. It is rather crowded for the time of day so Jesse leans down so his words can be heard over the chatter of the crowd and the sounds of coffee being made. “You want to grab us a table? I’ll get our drinks.”

Hanzo nods. “Just get me whatever you are having.”

A group of teenagers are moving on from a high top table by the window so Hanzo quickly takes one of the vacated stools, setting his bow in its case between him and the window. While Jesse waits patiently in line and contemplates the menu--and it occurs to Hanzo to wonder if the cashier will even speak English or if Jesse knows enough Mandarin to order coffee in China--Hanzo’s eyes scan the other patrons of the shop for possible threats. Nothing out of the ordinary, not that he expected anything. Just normal people going about their day. Outside is much of the same, men, women, and omnics hurrying to and fro, heading home from work or out shopping or enjoying the balmy weather.

“Pardon me, ma’am, my Mandarin is bit rusty--”

Hanzo turns his head and sees that Jesse made it to the front of the line. He towers over the other people in the cafe. His head is bowed slightly like he is trying to make his appearance seem less intimidating. The very short girl working the register has to tilt her head far back to give him a sweet helpful smile. “Oh! It is alright, I speak English. What can I get for you?”

Jesse scratches at his beard a moment, glancing up at the sign again though Hanzo is more and more certain he cannot read it. “Go ahead and get me a Venti Chai Latte--non-fat, please, if you don’t mind. Make it two; lemme get one for my friend Hanzo over there,” he says, jerking a thumb over his shoulder in Hanzo’s direction and pulling his wallet from his back pocket.

By the time Jesse makes his way to their little table with drinks in hand, Hanzo has managed to pull himself out of his shock. “How did you know that?”

“Know what?” Jesse asks, placing the hot drink carefully in front of Hanzo before sitting down on the opposite stool.

“My drink order,” Hanzo says, vaguely annoyed that it is not obvious. “That is what I always order if I have the chance. How did you know?”

“That’s how you ordered it in Monaco, isn’t it? Did I remember it right?”

“You remember from then? That mission was over a month ago.”

Jesse’s shrugs sheepishly. “Seemed like it was worth rememberin’.”

A small private smile spreads over Hanzo’s face and he wraps his fingers around the cup, feeling the warmth seep into his hands through the protective cardboard sheath. “Thank you. You keep surprising me.” His head quirks slightly. “I thought you preferred your coffee with just a dash of cream and sugar?”

“Figured I’d give this a try,” Jesse replies, sniffing experimentally at the steam coming out of the lidded drink. He looks a little unsure of the smell, more floral than he is used to, and he sets the drink down so it can cool. “Next time I’ll have you tryin’ somethin’ with a little more pep to it.”

“Next time,” Hanzo agrees, mostly because he is thrilled that Jesse is already sure of a next time. He takes a tentative sip of his drink and finds that it is just hot enough to give a biting sting to the tip of his tongue, but the flavor is perfect. “I do hope you like it, though it is an acquired taste.”

“I’ve had some wild tastin’ teas in my time. Ana used to make this one, and damn if I can’t remember the name of it, but I swear it tasted just like summer in a cup. Smelled like fresh cut grass, which ain’t the most appetizin’ scent in the world, but the taste was somethin’ else!”

He is smiling so openly over the story, happy in that memory, that Hanzo is again struck by how little he knows about these people that Jesse held so dear. The question comes tumbling out before he can really stop it. “Were you close to Ana Amari?”

Half a dozen emotions flash over Jesse’s face at the question, none of them readable. What settles over his features is guarded. “Yeah, I was,” he says, and offers no more than that.

There is an expectant pause then, Hanzo staring at Jesse and Jesse gazing back at Hanzo, nothing but the hum of the crowded cafe in their ears. It goes on a touch too long to pass off as anything other than awkward. Hanzo thinks it truly is a rare moment where neither one of them know what to say. He opens his mouth to--what, he does not know. Change the subject, or maybe apologize for mentioning it even though Jesse brought her up first. But Jesse starts speaking before he has a chance. “I’m sorry.”

“No, that was inappropriate of me,” Hanzo says. “I do not want to bring up a delicate subject if--”

“I don’t want to lie to you.”

Hanzo blinks. That was not what he expected. “Okay,” he says, eyeing Jesse for a hint to where he is going with this. “Then do not lie to me.”

He winces, looking out the window. “Yeah,” he says, which does not say much of anything.

“If I overstepped my bounds--”

“Just…” Jesse holds up his metal hand in a motion to wait, glancing at Hanzo before looking back out the window. “Give me a minute,” he says, fingers straying to napkin holder on the table and tugging one free to fidget with.

This odd behavior burns Hanzo with curiosity but he does as asked and keeps his silence, instead risking a sip of his beverage. The latte is still too hot but it is preferable to sitting there not knowing what to do with his hands. If Hanzo could guess, he would say Jesse might be arguing with himself; about what, he does not have a clue. Finally, Jesse seems to come to a decision, though his words come out stilted. “There’s somethin’ I want to tell you, but you have to swear you’ll keep it just between us.”

Hanzo shifts forward unconsciously, intrigued. And heartened. Whatever this secret, it is obviously important to him. “Agreed.”

“No matter what. Even if Genji asks. Hell, even if Fareeha brings it up, and she already knows--”

“Jesse,” Hanzo says, pressing their knees together under the table. “You can tell me.”

Jesse finally looks him in the eye for a long, hard moment. “Ana Amari is alive.”

There is a moment where Hanzo’s brain cannot process what Jesse just told him, then when he does he just stares some more. He honestly is not sure if he should be shocked or just laugh. “What is with Overwatch agents not staying dead?” he blurts before he can think to check the words.

His companion’s face twists in a humorless laugh. “Like cockroaches, we are.”

“How? Who knows about this?” Hanzo demands quietly, the implications hitting him one after the other. “How do you know? Does Fareeha know?! Her daughter should--”

“Fareeha knows,” Jesse says, cutting off the flow of questions. “Of course, Ana would never keep it from her. She knew from the beginning.” He scratches at his beard again before picking up his own drink to give it a try. If it is too hot Jesse just plows through regardless.

“Everyone thinks she died in a firefight with an enemy sniper. Headshot,” Hanzo says quietly, not wanting to draw attention to their table or their conversation.

“It was her gun that took the bullet, not her. The shrapnel from her scope caught her in the eye. Fareeha says from the way Ana was bleedin’, the team she was with thought she had been shot. Between miscommunication and the local EMT’s gettin’ involved, probably a little document doctorin’ on her part, she managed to hide that she made it. I guess she had been thinkin’ about finding a way out for a while and took the chance when she had it.”

“But why not just retire?” Hanzo asks, but with the way Jesse shakes his head, he thinks he already knows the answer.

“When you’re the best at this kind of work, retirement is never really an option, is it? They’d always be askin’ her to come back, needin’ her help. Just one more mission, just one more. There was no one like her on Earth. They would have never let her alone.” The way he says it, the conviction, Hanzo thinks he might be speaking from experience. “I don’t necessarily agree with how she did things, but she did what she thought was best for her and Fareeha.”

“And it is just you and her that know?”

“And Reinhardt. After she split with Fareeha’s dad, her and Reinhardt had some sort of casual relationship I never really understood...or wanted to understand, to tell the truth. But she couldn’t break his heart like that, thinkin’ she was dead.” Jesse lets out a soft chuckle. “Only secret I think the big guy has ever kept quiet on.”

Well, disturbing mental images aside, that explains some things from Reinhardt’s chivalrous and chaste behavior. “She told her daughter, her lover, and you,” Hanzo says, seeking clarity. “I would say that made the two of you very close.”

“Ana knew I didn’t have any family other than Overwatch. She cared about me, when not a lot of people gave a damn, trusted me and treated me like I was worth somethin’. I’ve always been mighty grateful for her. She knew that I’d take it the hardest.”

“She loves you.”

Another unreadable expression, and Jesse’s jaw works beneath his skin before he nods. “Closest thing to a mother I’ll ever have again.”

Hanzo is still adjusting to the easy way that Jesse shows affection, but never more has he wanted to embrace the other man and offer comfort. A shame they are in a busy restaurant. The best he can do for now is reach across the tiny tabletop and hook his fingers around Jesse’s hand, squeezing firm and warm. “Thank you for telling me. And for trusting me.”

“Thanks, darlin’,” Jesse replies, turning his hand and linking their fingers together. “I ain’t told a soul in all these years, but I know you’ll keep it secret with me. Besides, I’d like to be able to tell her about you and it just seems wrong if it don’t go both ways.”

“I want to know more,” Hanzo says, eyes going from their joined hands up to Jesse’s eyes. “About you. I feel like you know so much about my past and I know so little. Just anecdotes and tall tales--”

“Hey, I don’t tell tall tales--”

“--or stories from when you were with Blackwatch,” he continues. “And your personal file is nothing but a pile of redacted missions and restricted access, and do not give me that look, you should have known I went searching for that long ago.”

Jesse looks momentarily petulant but ends up shrugging. “A’ight, I suppose. Not like I didn’t look into you, too.”

“You pried plenty out of me in person,” Hanzo says. He still squirms uncomfortably when he thinks of those first few times they really talked, when his emotions would overflow, with or without the help of alcohol. But Jesse is here now despite all of that, or maybe because of it, so there is no reason to dwell in embarrassment. “I am not asking for everything. Just...I want to know you.”

He can tell that Jesse is softening within moments. The cowboy huffs a little laugh, shaking his head. “You don’t play fair lookin’ at me all sweet with those pretty brown eyes of yours.”

“Genji says I am horrible at seduction.”

“Genji can go suck an egg. Wait--wait, no, damn it, that sayin’ don’t work now! Why’d he have to name his dragon Egg?” He laughs along with Hanzo, the tension easing between them. Keeping Hanzo’s hand grasped in his own, Jesse leans back against the short back of his stool. “A’ight, shoot. Ask away.”

To be honest, Hanzo was expecting more of a fight over it so he does not have a question at-the-ready. A few come to mind quick enough. “You are always so careful not to bring up your birth parents,” he says gently. “I was not sure...did you know them?”

“Yeah. I don’t talk about them a lot cause I don’t know too much, but I remember some things.” Hanzo just nods encouragingly, fingers squeezing his fingers. Jesse purses his lips then sighs, picking up his cup with his prosthetic but not taking a drink. “Yeah, okay, so my Pa was Joel McCree. Second generation immigrant from Ireland. His mother came over all on her lonesome and somewhere along the way my Pa happened. Don’t know much of the specifics, but when I was young I didn’t think to ask stuff like that, you know? Anyway, once he was on his own he traveled a bunch before ending up down in El Paso, and that’s where he met my Mama.”

Hanzo frowns, trying to remember where that would be. “Mexico?”

“Texas, but close enough.” Jesse takes a sip of his drink, still not used to the flavor being so off from normal coffee if his face is anything to go by. “She was visitin’ from Mexico, anyway.”

“What was her name?”

“Jovita. Jovita Villalobos.” The Spanish syllables roll of Jesse’s tongue like raindrops. “She was from Oaxaca, which is pretty far south in Mexico. They met, fell in love, and eventually settled in Santa Fe where they had little ole me.”

That is one theory confirmed. Jesse is so entrenched in the culture of the southwestern United States, and his skin is so naturally dark compared to the other white Americans he has met like Morrison, he had wondered if maybe there was something there he was missing. “Jovita,” Hanzo repeats, wanting to get the pronunciation correct. The cowboy nods, but smiles in amusement. He is pretty sure the name sounds odd coming from his mouth. “Joel, Jovita, and Jesse. They had a thing for J’s.”

“I suppose they did,” Jesse chuckles.

“I am sure you were a precocious child,” Hanzo speculates, smiling at the thought. “Did your father not have an accent? You sound nothing like I would imagine.”

Jesse laughs outright at that, grinning. “Ain’t it somethin’? I grew up hearin’ Gaelic and Spanish mixed with English, and I turn out like this? Probably because Pa was losin’ his accent mighty fast himself and everyone else sounded like this. I can still mimic it pretty well, I think.”

“Do it.”

“No!”

“Come on!”

“Not here!” Jesse turns a little pink and looks around, but no one is paying them any mind. “When we ain’t in public, maybe. You can get me drunk and I’ll be more affable.”

“I will remember that,” Hanzo says. His prosthetic ankle hooks around Jesse’s and he watches as the other man’s blush deepens, surprised at the gestures. “You did not have any siblings?”

“Nah. That’s part of what drew me into Deadlock, you know. They kind of preyed on that sort of...need for a family, I guess. Send out the guys that are charming, become your friend, show you how they take care of each other. Load of rubbish, once you look hard enough, but back then it was all I wanted.”

The memory comes to Hanzo’s mind instantly. From when he was young, no more than seven or eight. His father complaining loudly about their recruitment numbers, that he was wanting to expand, they needed more men. There had been a man there in his late twenties, the sort of devil-may-care handsome that the general public would think of when they romanticized the yakuza, so unlike most of the hardened and ugly men his father hired to do the dirty work. Public relations, he had said his specialty was. Hanzo remembers the man telling his father that he had his eye on some fresh blood. After being dismissed the man had smiled his charismatic smile at Hanzo on his way out of the room, winked and called him some endearing nickname that no other man under his father’s gaze would dare, and Hanzo had been charmed.

Remembering it now, he can see it for what it was.

He feels vaguely sick to remember all the times he and the clan elders discussed the waning numbers of the Shimada Empire and the push to find new blood. They would say the best option was to target the orphanages, the homeless, the downtrodden, the runaways. Kids that did not have anyone else. Boys like McCree.

“Anyway,” Jesse continues, unaware of Hanzo’s introspection. “It was just the three of us. I kind of remember visitin’ Mama’s family down in Mexico once, but I was so young it’s all just snapshots. Can’t remember any of the details. Really wish I could. I went down there when I was on the run but I could never find any of them. Hell, I don’t even know if Villalobos was her real name.” He takes a much longer drink of his tea and then the rest pours out in a fast torrent like Jesse wants to just get it over with. “Then Mama got sick. Pa spent all the money we had with the doctors, and she ended up passin’ away when I was six. We got into some hard money trouble, he worked himself ragged tryin’ to keep us from goin’ under, went into debt, then he had a heart attack. Died when I was twelve. Joined Deadlock within the year.”

Jesse’s hand breaks free from Hanzo’s and he reaches as if to fish under his serape for his cigarillos only to find it is not there but in his pant pocket. Then he remembers where he is and that he cannot smoke in the cafe anyway. “Come,” Hanzo says, sliding off the stool and taking his cup. “We can walk.”

“Thanks darlin’,” Jesse says, relieved. As soon as they clear the cafe door Jesse is lighting up, taking a deep drag from the cigarillo and sighing out a long stream of smoke. “I feel like I’m ruinin’ this date,” he says, taking another draw.

“You are not,” Hanzo says. He shifts the strap to the guitar case on his shoulder and smiles ruefully up at Jesse. “If what you say is true, I think I have cried on at least two of our previous dates. That makes me far worse at this.”

Tucking the cigarillo between his teeth, Jesse wraps his arm around Hanzo’s shoulders again and sets out on a slow stroll. “You, Hanzo Shimada, are a delight on a date and I will hear none of this self-deprecating talk to make me feel better.” Hanzo snorts, looking up at him, and Jesse continues, “Yeah, I said it, a delight.”

“You are ridiculous,” Hanzo replies. He links his arm around Jesse’s waist again, liking the way they feel tucked together as they walk. “I am sorry about your parents.”

“It was a long time ago.”

“Still.”

“Things weren’t always bad,” Jesse insists. “Sometimes it was really good. They were good people, tried their damndest. Things just didn’t work out.”

Hanzo hums, thoughtful. “Did your mother make tea?”

“Pardon?”

“You said you had tried many types of tea,” he specifies. “From Ana. I was asking if your mother made tea. Mine always made matcha and peach.”

“Matcha’s that green stuff you drink in the mornin’s, right?”

“Yes,” Hanzo laughs. That green stuff. “So?”

Jesse tilts his head, trying to recall. “I think she did, come to think of it. Somethin’ dark and bitter. I hated it when I was little,” he chuckles. “But she did make the best hot chocolate I’ve had in my life. She used to let me help make it, so I actually remember how it goes…”

They walk aimlessly, swapping stories about their childhoods that are, for once, not rife with drama or sadness. Hanzo discovers that Jesse prefers his hot chocolate to be made with milk and that it just does not taste right without nutmeg and cayenne pepper added. That Jesse’s mother was a protester, demonstrator, a revolutionist, that came to El Paso for a march because she wanted to change the world, or at least her small part of it. She always kept her midnight hair in a long plait that hung over her shoulder and would play the guitar on quiet evenings. He learns Jesse’s father liked to work with his hands. He did not believe in throwing things out and did his best to fix anything that was broken. There was a short time where he made a living fixing omnics, simple repairs that he could handle as long as it did not involve working with intricate processors and circuitry. When Jesse was ten, his father took him out to the edge of town and taught him to shoot with an old pistol. He would spend hours following his father’s instructions as they took aim at empty cartons and liquor bottles, listening to him spin yarns about the heroes of the old west.

Jesse learns that Hanzo’s mother, Tsubame, had a beautiful voice and loved art, so much that she collected original watercolors and once tried to teach her boys to paint with disastrous results. She did not work--had no need, married to Shimada Sojiro since the age of nineteen--but liked to keep busy, always wanting to see or make something beautiful. She was generous, donating to causes she saw as important, sometimes at the risk of Sojiro’s wrath. Tsubame adored her sons, and they her, and when she passed away both Hanzo and Genji had mourned in their own loud and destructive ways. Those details Hanzo glances over, instead speaking of how his mother was so in love with the cherry trees of Hanamura, and how she planted a sapling in celebration the first time they successfully manifested their dragons. When she passed on, they planted dozens in her name, would have covered the countryside in cherry trees if they could.

By the time their feet carry them to the People’s Park they have shifted the conversation back to talk of Ana. They buy bing tanghulus from a street vendor near the entrance then begin to walk around White Dragon Lake, Jesse speaking fondly of the first time he met the elder Amari. He recalls how Ana took a liking to him immediately, even if she did not necessarily trust him, even if all he did was back talk and cause trouble those first few months. She had eventually taken him under her wing. They would talk about guns and shooting endlessly, annoying both Jack and Gabriel by being a better shot than they would ever be. He talks about how he once babysat Fareeha while the others went on an emergency mission and everyone thought for sure they would come back to the base on fire, but when they returned they found Fareeha asleep on the couch with her feet in Jesse’s lap. She was fed and safe having spent the evening learning the rules of Texas Hold’em, then how best to cheat at Texas Hold’em. After that, Jesse became both Ana and Fareeha’s favorite.

“Fareeha was always followin’ me and the others around the base,” Jesse says as they walk up the incline of the white stone moon bridge that arches across part of the lake. “She would ask about a million questions and would get mad if we censored anythin’ cause she was a kid. Had Reinhardt wrapped around her little finger, even way back then. Always dreamed of bein’ part of Overwatch with us. It was like the family business. Gabe would call her munchkin and tell her Blackwatch was the better option, just to piss Jack and Ana off.”

They pause at the top of the crest and stand side-by-side leaning with their elbows on the railing. Above them the sky has slowly filled with clouds so that now everything is overcast, though still humid. Despite the impending weather, the view from the top of the bridge is stunning. The whole of the park stretches out before them in the mirror reflection of the water. It is a beautiful picture, one that Hanzo is glad to see with Jesse. He moves so their arms press together from shoulder to elbow. “Gabriel was the one that took you into Blackwatch, correct?”

Jesse hums in confirmation. He does not immediately follow it up with words, but Hanzo senses that this might be something Jesse would like to talk about. If it is anything like the rest of their conversation, Hanzo thinks maybe all Jesse has needed was someone he could trust having the time and inclination to listen.

“Gabe was the only one that thought I was worth somethin’,” Jesse finally says. “Without him I’d be twenty years into a life sentence or dead by now, I reckon. Same thing, really.” The breeze picks up then, cool after the heat of the day and carrying the scent of rain. “It’s a debt I don’t think I’ll ever be able to repay. And then he went and…”

Blew up Overwatch headquarters and possibly killed himself , Hanzo’s mind fills in unhelpfully. “Do you really think he is still alive?”

“I don’t know. I don’t--if he ain’t, then maybe I’m goin’ crazy for thinkin’ it’s a possibility. Seein’ things that ain’t really there. But if he is, hell, what does that even mean?” He clasps his hands together in front of him where they hang over the water. “What happened to him then?”

It is a thought Hanzo has been loathe to contemplate. If the man Jesse knew as Gabriel Reyes and the Reaper are one and the same, it is hard to imagine what series of events led him to become what he is now. “I do not know.”

“Like, part of me hopes it ain’t him. Cause he should be dead and gone and just...at peace, or something. Whatever. But if it is him, then at least he’s--”

“Alive,” Hanzo says. “But our enemy.”

Jesse wrinkles his nose, agreeing but not liking the taste of it. “Yeah.”

“There is no point in dwelling on that for now. When we find out, we can deal with it.” Hanzo watches Jesse’s profile carefully, and says, “If it is any consolation, I believe you have repaid your debt and then some.”

Turning his head, Jesse looks Hanzo in the eye, whiskey eyes open and touched. Without fanfare, he reaches up and cradles the side of Hanzo’s face in one hand and leans down to kiss him.

“Mmm!” Hanzo wraps his fingers around Jess’s wrist, surprised, then relaxes and opens his mouth so that they can taste the lingering sweet and sour of candied fruit on each other’s tongues. The treat left their lips slightly sticky and they drag together almost uncomfortably, until they pause to lick their lips before kissing again.

It is not exactly the most decent kiss to be having in the middle of a park. The squeal of children laughing across the water reminds Hanzo of that. Still, he lingers in the moment as long as he can before putting a palm to Jesse’s chest and pushing him gently away. He wonders if he looks as kiss-swollen as Jesse does in that moment. “There are children present,” Hanzo chastises. Which, of course, only makes Jesse grin that cocky grin of his.

“Are you sayin’ you want to find a shady spot where we can be alone? Cause I bet the safe house is empty for a few hours more at least,” Jesse suggests, waggling his eyebrows for good measure.

Hanzo scoffs and gives Jesse’s chest a playful shove. “We are on a mission, Jesse. And we are not doing...whatever it is you are thinking of in that dirty building.”

Jesse does not seem inclined to argue, bobbing his head and chuckling softly. “Damn near forgot we were on a mission at all, sweetheart. Too busy enjoyin’ all this time with you.”

“I would not be opposed to making a habit of this,” Hanzo admits, leaning up and kissing him again much more chastely. They smile into each other’s lips and against the soft tickle of facial hair. “Though, a coffee date in China is a bit extravagant, do you not agree? Where are you taking me for our next date? The moon?”

He laughs, tugging Hanzo to start walking with him again. “You think you’re so funny, teasin’ me like this, next time I’m takin’ you for fast food. Somethin’ greasy and fattening, make you go runnin’ back to the gym, mister smarty-britches.”

Not two steps off the bridge a big, fat drop of rain strikes Jesse square in the face. He jerks and wipes it away, then looks up. “Aw, hell.”

“How far are we from the safe house?” Hanzo asks, fearing the answer.

They exchange a knowing look. “Best get goin’.”

Two blocks out of the park the sky opens up. Jesse takes Hanzo by the hand and they run laughing through the back streets and alleys to cut off time, but it is no use. Soaked to their skin, they slow to a walk and accept their fate. Hanzo cannot suppress the broad smile at seeing Jesse’s hair plastered to his head, rain dripping from the strands of his brow and the strands of his beard, red bandana a dark stain around his neck. The cowboy looks young like this, carefree. The others like to think McCree is always happy-go-lucky, but Hanzo knows better. Right now, Jesse looks happier than Hanzo has ever seen him.

Before they separate to slip back into the safehouse, Hanzo pulls him down for another deep kiss. He wants to drink that happiness from Jesse’s lips and never go thirsty again.

 

---

 

“Zenyatta, you’re a lifesaver,” Lúcio says as he wraps his deadlocks with a towel in a complicated pile on top of his head. “And I don’t mean just because you like, literally save lives and heal them, but in the metaphorical, metaphysical sense, too. Just all around preserver of good health and--”

“Thank you,” Zenyatta says, if just to stem the flow of Lúcio’s words. If given the chance Lúcio can go on at length about the smallest of subjects just so he can see where the language takes him. An aspect of his personality that makes him great at producing music but sometimes hard to control in normal conversation. “I am sure Doctor Zeigler would be most displeased if you all returned sick.” He sets another bowl of steaming hot soup down on the makeshift table, this one intended for Hana. She has two blankets wrapped around her shoulders and a sour look on her face. “You will feel much better after you eat.”

“I can’t believe the bathroom doesn’t have a working shower,” she complains, squeezing another few ounces of water out of her hair. “It’s bad enough there’s no heat or air conditioning. Thanks, Zenny.”

A series of intense white flashes light the room followed almost immediately by a loud peal of thunder that has all of them jerking startled. Lúcio hisses as he accidentally spills a few drops of hot broth onto his thigh. “Damn!”

“Careful,” Hanzo says, handing him one of the napkins that came with their meal.

The storm broke before any of them made it to the safehouse. Hanzo and Jesse were back early enough to change clothes and hang their soaked garments up to dry before Hana, Lúcio, and Fareeha came toppling up the stairs. The other two were wet but somehow Hana was splattered in mud and fuming like mad. They never got a full story out of anyone, but Fareeha suggested maybe they avoid going near the arcade on the way out of town. Asking where their omnic monk was since four left and only three returned, Lúcio said he was picking up dinner for them since he was unaffected by the water or cold. A little while later a rain-slicked Zenyatta walked up the stairs laden down with plastic bags from a soup and noodle shop a few streets over.

“It’s really comin’ down out there,” Jesse says. He is at one of the heavily-curtained windows that face the street watching the near-torrential rain fall down in sheets. The storm brought darkness with it, the sky quickly fading to night under heavy cloud cover and the rain glowing in the street lights as they come on one by one. Jesse cradles a bowl of soup against his chest while he eats, plowing through it at a record pace despite the heat radiating from it. “I doubt it stops anytime soon.”

Fareeha mumbles a yes around a bite of noodles. “Good thing we needed to wait until the morning to get started.”

“Yeah. Some of the routes we’re takin’ aren’t exactly on the most cared for roads. Hope we don’t get stuck in mud.”

“More mud?” Hana whines. “Why does it have to be more mud?”

“Man, and I was hoping to go check out the club scene tonight,” Lúcio adds.

Hanzo frowns from his place on the far couch where he is carefully eating his meal. “You need to be rested for tomorrow. We’ll need to be on our guard for an ambush the whole way.”

“Hanzo’s right. No clubbin’, or ravin’, or whatever else you do.” Jesse punctuates that with a loud slurp as he sucks up a stray noodle.

“You used to be fun,” Fareeha says teasingly.

“Yeah, well, even I ain’t stupid enough to go get myself lost in a new city in the middle of a gale like this one.”

There is general grumbling at that, Hana carrying the conversation with talk of the handheld game system she brought along and how she wishes she had thought to bring another so at least two of them could play together. Investigating the television they discover that while the it has power, it is not connected in any way to the outside world. They cannot even find local channels being broadcast, not that most of them would understand the languages anyway. “I could hook something up with my gear, maybe, but I don’t have anything worth watching on my phone. What are we supposed to do?” Lúcio asks, messing with the cables to his audio equipment listlessly. Even he gets tired of spending his off-time listening to music in his headphones, and he cannot play anything loud on his speakers without drawing attention to the building.

“I might have something,” Hanzo says, surprising everyone as he sets his bowl aside and brings out his phone.

Hana tries to lean over to see what he has on his playlists. “Don’t tell me it’s one of you two’s old black and white movies.”

“There is nothing wrong with black and white, and sometimes it adds a much more dramatic mood to--”

“Oh no, it is black and white and I bet it’s like eight thousand hours long!”

He stalls a moment before correcting, “Only two hours twenty.”

“Ugh!” she groans, flopping back against the couch cushions.

Suddenly Jesse is leaning over the back of the couch and looking over Hanzo’s shoulder to see the screen, and how did he even get there from the window without Hanzo noticing? “What do you got there? Hidden Fortress?”

“Yes. I was planning on watching with you for, ah,” Hanzo pauses before restarting the sentence. “I was going to suggest you watch it. Another Kurosawa piece I think you would enjoy. Have you seen it?”

“Can’t say that I have.”

Hanzo tips his head back so he can see Jesse’s face. “It is ironically appropriate, actually. It involves gold smuggling.”

“Well let’s queue it up,” Jesse says with a smile. “Ain’t nothin’ better on a rainy night than curlin’ up with a good movie.”

“But those movies are so boring,” Hana starts again as Hanzo hands his phone over to Lúcio, who goes over to the television to try and make magic happen.

“You never know, you might like them,” Fareeha says, which just gets her a dubious look from Hana.

“I am sure it will be enjoyable,” Zenyatta says reasonably. “I often find it fascinating what different people think of as interesting and how preferences change over time. And I have not had the opportunity to watch many films.”

“No? Oh, right, I guess there aren’t many movie theaters up there near the temple, are there?”

“I am afraid not. Though when Genji joined our ranks he often spoke of them. We once traveled to a village across the range to see the showing of Heroes of My Storm when it was released. It was quite a trip.”

Hana stops what she is doing to gape at Zenyatta like a fish. “You went and saw my movie? My movie?!”

“Of course. It was the talk of the monastery for weeks. You were wonderful, Hana, if I may say so.”

“How did you even know about it?”

“We are not without our sources for news, even in the Himalayas,” Zenyatta says, laughing softly.

“Wow, that’s crazy,” she says, blinking back from her shock before what Zenyatta said finally penetrates the haze. She lights up. “You liked it?”

“I did. We all did. I particularly liked the scene with the scientist, Ciro I believe his name was? When you were determined not to leave him despite the EMP shockwave that would surely wipe his hard drives, while he was trying to finish the cure for the virus. It was quite emotional. I was on the edge of my seat. Riveting!”

Lúcio hums from over at the television. “Oh yeah, and then you--”

“Gave that rousing monologue to the crew of your ship,” Zenyatta continues right over Lúcio, beginning to talk with his hands. “And you could hear the emotion in your voice, the desperation, it was like we were all on the ship with you, wanting to do our part to save the day. I believe if I was capable of what humans call ‘goosebumps’ I would be covered in them.”

“I think you might be fanboying pretty hard there, Zen,” Fareeha smirks from behind her bowl of soup.

Zenyatta seems to come back to himself and draws his arms inward again, fingers folding into a complicated knot. “I apologize if that was forward--”

“Oh my God you are adorable!” Hana coos, wrapping her arms around him and crushing him in a fierce hug. “It’s one thing to hear it from random strangers online but another to hear it from one of you guys! You really liked it? Aww, Zenyatta, I don’t know what to say! Thank you so much!”

“You should give him your autograph,” Lúcio suggests. “I almost got this fixed, by the way.”

They begin to shuffle the blankets and pillows around so everyone has room, Jesse turning off the one lamp they had as the television lights up with static. Hana ends up tugging Zenyatta over to sit between her and Lúcio’s spot, and Fareeha sprawls across the loveseat to their right leaving Hanzo and Jesse the couch on the left. “What kind of movie is this?” Fareeha asks. “I’m not sure what you guys consider a date movie.”

Jesse glares at her. “They ain’t date movies.”

“Yes they are.”

“They’re classic cinema, and--”

“Actually, if I remember correctly, The Hidden Fortress was one of the inspirations for George Lucas creating Star Wars.”

All talking in the room ceases for a solid five seconds, the only noise the loud patter of rain pouring against the building. Lúcio actually stops the always-constant bobbing of his head to an internal beat. They all stare at Hanzo like he just announced he was the Grand Sultan of Swing-Dancing. “I’m sorry,” Hana says, forcefully. “I don’t think I heard you correctly. What did you say?”

“The two main characters, Tahei and Matashichi, are the basis for what would become R2-D2 and C-3PO. And the way the story is told from the viewpoint of the lowliest characters, rather than that of the main protagonists. Lucas was influenced by Kurosawa’s storytelling. And I believe a large part of the plot was reused in--”

“How have I not seen this!?” Hana cries while Lúcio starts jamming cords into ports to get the film going. “Are you freaking serious? That is awesome! Now we have to watch it!”

She starts to fuss with the blankets and making sure everyone has something to drink, and Jesse takes a seat next to Hanzo. “Is that true?” he asks, leaning over to talk soft enough so only Hanzo can hear.

Hanzo glances around the room then whispers back, “I think so? I read it once, anyway.”

“Sneaky.” Jesse smirks and tosses a blanket around both their shoulders.

“Okay now,” Fareeha says as the opening credits of the movie start to flash on the screen. “You two better not be being gross over there during the movie. Hands where I can see them, and keep enough space for--”

“Oh hush up,” Jesse says, sounding a bit like a teenager being called out by his parents. He puts his arm around Hanzo’s shoulder and sticks his tongue out at Fareeha, who returns the gesture with a rude one of her own.

Hanzo cannot believe he is thirty-eight years old and this is his life.

It turns out that even though Hana is a wonderful actress--at least as far as Zenyatta is concerned, Hanzo has personally never seen Heroes of My Storm so cannot confirm nor deny the claim--she is a horrible movie watcher. When Hanzo and Jesse watch movies, they talk about different parts, sure. Sometimes they get off on side discussions and have to backtrack to see what they missed. Hana Song just talks .

“Now that is a shirt. Nice crop top, where did he leave the rest of it?”

“Did he just call that guy a shitworm? That is going to be my new insult for like the next week. Shitworm! That’s great!”

“Oh man, we got crop top and short-shorts. And a baldie. That’s what I’m calling them.”

“I like how they strategically hide their filming location by just pointing the camera up the hill into the sky. Way to hide what is probably a bunch of cars and towns and stuff. Not exactly subtle--Hanzo, don’t look at me like that, you know it’s true!”

“So who did these guys piss off in a past life, do you think? No one is this unlucky. But maybe they have it coming with how much they whine.”

“Ew, they’re all digging in the same nasty hole? Look at how sweaty and...not clothed they are. Gross. There is a lot of nasty funk in that hole. Ugh, they must stink so bad...I really want that shower now…”

“You are dead. You are so dead. Why are you running in front of those people, it’s a RIOT! No! NO! Get out of the way, guy, move! Nope, nope, so dead. Told you, dead.”

“It’s so weird to see samurais with guns. Like, I know it’s historically accurate or whatever, that transition period, but it’s still weird. Hanzo, if you started using a gun, I just don’t know what I’d do with you. It would be wrong, just wrong. No, McCree, don’t get that look, no, no guns for Hanzo.”

“Did that dude not say ten minutes ago he wasn’t a thief? And now look at him! I mean, I know you’re having a bad day, but come on man. Stick to your morals!”

And on and on, about the characters, what they are wearing, their haircuts, how loud they are, how they remind her of a guy she knew back in the army (Park Yung-Hoon, as she was quick to point out), which reminds her of a story about Yung-Hoon, and then this other story about this one time her supervising officer once made Yung-Hoon carry MEKA replacement parts by hand all the way across the base because he was so bad at keeping up the maintenance on his own MEKA and wait, what did that subtitle say? She missed the last ten minutes, go back.

And, just like the hapless duo they are following on-screen, Hana brings out the contrary side in Lúcio just as much as Lúcio brings it out in Hana if not more so. They bicker about the blanket draped across their laps, Hana tugging it one way then Lúcio tugging it the other, how loud the other one is being, whether or not playing a video game or listening to music through an ear bud during a movie is considered rude, the list goes on. Zenyatta eventually slips from between them to sit on the floor by Fareeha, which only opens them up for more arguing as Hana presses her incredibly cold feet into Lúcio’s thigh.

“I am going to kill them,” Fareeha mutters, not even bothering to keep quiet as she slumps back further into the couch.

Hanzo feels similarly, and is about to say so when Jesse gasps next to him. “It’s my man!” he cries.

Fareeha looks back at the screen but the shot is back on Tahei and Matashichi. “Who?”

“Toshiro Mifune,” Jesse says, grinning. “You didn’t tell me he was in this.”

“His name was in the opening credits,” Hanzo points out.

“I must have been distracted by Tweedledee and Tweedledum over there.”

“We can hear you, you know,” Hana complains, loudly.

They quiet down to listen to Tahei explain their plan to avoid the guards at the border by slipping first from Akizuki to Yamana then into Hayakawa. While the others are distracted, Jesse turns his head to murmur in Hanzo’s ear, “How come you never wear shorts like that?”

Hanzo stiffens, not daring to look over at Jesse. Because the shorts Mifune is wearing could hardly be counted as such for how high they are, clothing that would have been appropriate for a peasant at that time but scandalous by today’s standards. “Because I am not an actor,” Hanzo mutters back.

“I bet you’d look good,” Jesse continues, voice so low no one else could possibly hear. It is horribly distracting in the best way.

From that point on, Jesse’s breath seems to be right in his ear or along his shoulder, the man leaning over to whisper to him one thing or another. Usually something complimentary or vaguely suggestive. He is doing it on purpose just to watch him squirm, Hanzo is sure. Because it is always when the others are preoccupied with an important plot point, so they do not even notice Hanzo slowly being driven mad.

During the scene where Mifune’s character Makabe is chasing down enemy soldiers on horseback, riding with no hands and wielding a samurai sword no less, Jesse leans over to whisper who-knows-what when Hanzo snaps. “You need to stop,” Hanzo whispers, smiling despite himself at Jesse’s attempts. He finally risks looking up at him, and his mouth is right there.

“Stop what?” Jesse asks.

“You know exactly what. I thought you wanted to watch the movie.”

“I do,” he says. “But I like messin’ with you more.”

“I am going to kill you.”

“Darlin’,” Jesse murmurs in a playful whine, but he backs off. At least verbally. The hand he has on Hanzo’s opposite shoulder starts rubbing distractedly against his skin, fingers dipping occasionally into the collar of his shirt or playing with the soft fly-away hairs at the nape of his neck.

Hanzo likes it. The worst part is, he thinks Jesse knows he does, too. Bastard.

While the others are distracted, he glances up at Jesse who is engrossed in the movie. Not enough to ignore the feel of eyes on him, though, because soon enough he glances back.

Hanzo is not sure who initiates the kiss, which one of them broke first and leaned in, just that it happens. Slow and leisurely, soft and quiet, a ghosting of lips against lips before they press back for more. No movement beyond the gentle exchange of air between them easily covered by the dramatic music on screen. Hanzo’s eyes open enough to take in Jesse’s face, half lit up in a soft white glow and the other half obscured in shadow. Too close to take in the whole picture, just the tiny details. The curve of his cheek, the wet sheen to his lips. Eyes lidded and intent on Hanzo’s own. Hanzo closes his eyes again, barely opening his mouth to feel that warm--

They both jerk as an object clips Jesse in the shoulder before dully clattering down onto the floor at their feet. “What in tarnation!” Jesse blurts, jerking to glare at a smirking Fareeha.

“No making out, there are young and impressionable minds here!”

“Did I miss it!” Hana squeals, sitting up and knocking Lúcio out of the slight stupor he had fallen in. “Fareeha! You should have told me! I could have got a picture!”

Hanzo whimpers and pulls the blanket up over his head. Damn Jesse and his tempting everything. And damn himself for pressing into Jesse’s side when the cowboy squeezes him closer by the shoulder in comfort.

“No way,” Fareeha says with mild disgust. “I don’t need Jesse sucking face immortalized--hey!” She dodges as Jesse flings the water bottle back at her, striking her right in the arm when she ducks.

“I am goin’ to remember this next time you start seein’ someone, missy. Just you wait. Ole McCree is goin’ to make whatever date you go on miserable. I think your Mama would be all for bringing back chaperones.”

“I think Mom would turn a squirt bottle on you!” Fareeha laughs.

“And who are you calling young and impressionable?” Hana demands, cutting back in. “I’m not a kid, you know!”

“I was talking about Zenny, of course.”

Zenyatta, who has been quietly enjoying the movie despite the chaos around him, pipes up. “Actually, I am a year older than Hana, so I believe she would still be considered the youngest of the group--”

“You’re only twenty?! ” Jesse looks scandalized when Zenyatta mentions it, but Hanzo is not entirely sure why. He will have to remember to ask about it later.

They all get sucked into the end of the movie, Makabe and Yuki escaping the enemy in a dramatic fashion and revealing that Yuki is indeed the Akizuki princess and Makabe her General and now most trusted of friends. The peasants Takei and Matashichi continue to be relatively useless up till the very end, their own friendship finally solidified as the descend the stairs of the castle. Though Fareeha thinks the two will be fighting again before the end of the day.

“So, wait,” Hana says, holding up a hand to get everyone’s attention. “Was Yuki supposed to be Princess Leia? That is awesome!”

“Yeah, I can totally see it,” Lúcio agrees, nodding. “I don’t know if Makabe was supposed to be Han Solo or Obi Wan, but maybe he’s some combination of the two?”

“Definitely not Luke,” Fareeha chimes in.

“Definitely not.”

“What Leia needed was a switch like Yuki had!” She balls up her half of the blanket and leaves it in a pile on Lúcio’s lap as she gets up to dig through her bag. “Beat the crap out of anybody that crossed her. And that glare! Oh man, that was fierce! I love it! I’m going to start using that when reporters want to talk to me about when I plan on settling down or hang up my controller, get a real job, find yourself a nice boy , ugh! Just going to give them that Princess Glare and smack them with a stick!”

“You are scary enough when you’re mad,” Lúcio grimaces, rubbing his bicep. “I don’t think you need a stick.”

She comes up with her phone and hands it to Lúcio. “Here. I think I have some old cartoons on there we can put on while we sleep.”

Hanzo bids the others goodnight and heads upstairs then, reminding them that they have an early morning and to get some rest. As he goes he can hear them quietly discussing setting alarms and arranging blankets. A glance back and Hanzo sees that Jesse is having some sort of discussion with Zenyatta.

Upstairs he pulls the tie from his hair and scratches at his scalp, sore from keeping it up all day. There is a warm fatigue in his muscles from walking the city but his mind is still awake, as is usually the case on a mission. He was the same if not worse when he was on his own, never feeling quite at ease enough to relax with the possibility of enemies nearby. Hanzo kneels down then sits at the window and eases the curtain back enough so he can see out into the street. Perhaps someone passing through on their way home might walk by, but it seems unlikely on a night like this. Tying the fabric back, he picks up his storm bow and leans against the sill. From his position he can scan the windows, the roofs of the other buildings, the shadows in every corner. Not the top of the building across the street, but there is nothing for it. He is sure they will think him truly paranoid if he goes out investigating with the rain still coming down as hard as it is.

His body is just settling into a position he could hold for a while when he hears the stairs creak with Jesse’s weight. As he comes up to Hanzo’s level he yawns broadly, not bothering to cover his mouth. “What are you doin’?” he asks on the tail end of it so the words are round and mostly vowels. “Don’t tell me you plan on keepin’ watch all night.”

“For a while. It will put me at ease.”

“You need to get sleep just like the rest of us,” Jesse says. Turning his back on Hanzo, he tugs the bandana from around his neck and tosses it down before retrieving the serape he abandoned earlier that day. There is not enough ambient light to see Jesse clearly as he walks over to Hanzo’s spot and nudges him with a foot. “Scoot up for me.”

“What are you doing?” Hanzo asks, shifting forward to make room for Jesse to sit behind him, which he does with a stiff groan. “Just because I cannot sleep right away does not mean you should not get rest.”

“Maybe I want to keep you company, you ever think of that, smart guy?” Long legs bracket Hanzo on either side, the one closest to the window bent at the knee for comfort, and a wall of heat presses into Hanzo’s back. “Lower your bow.”

Hanzo does so and suddenly the fabric of Jesse’s serape is tossed around his front and wrapped around them both like a blanket, Jesse’s scent surrounding Hanzo in a wave. He goes from slightly chilled to warm and cozy in moments. But it does make holding his storm bow awkward. “I can hardly be at-the-ready with this on.”

“There ain’t nobody out there, Han,” Jesse says, wrapping his arms around Hanzo’s middle and tugging him back further in his embrace. “You’d have to be crazy to be out in this weather.”

“Omnic assassins are hardly bothered by the rain, and that is who we are worried about tomorrow, is it not?”

Jesse sighs, a hot gust against Hanzo’s shoulder, and he laughs. “Fine, hold your bow. Don’t let me stop you.”

“Like you could,” Hanzo replies, bringing another soft laugh out of the man behind him. He makes a show of keeping his hands gripped on the bow and turning his eyes back to the window, even as his position relaxes and he lets Jesse take more of his weight. Jesse seems to like that, hooking his chin over Hanzo’s shoulder so his beard scratches pleasantly against his skin. “I have never been on a date like today.”

“Like what?” Jesse asks.

It takes Hanzo a moment to find the right word. “Fun,” he finally says, smiling ruefully into the darkness. “I had fun.”

“Oh. Well, good, then. Not that you ain’t never had a fun date, that’s, well that’s kind of sad, but I’m glad you had fun today. I always want you to have fun. I thought you were goin’ to say somethin’ else.”

“Something else?”

“Yeah. Like...simple, maybe. Cheap. I should’ve took you out somewhere fancy.”

Hanzo scoffs, glancing to the side where he can just see Jesse’s face close to his. “How much money you spend is of little consequence to me, I assure you.” He looks back out the window to the street where an uneven crack in the road has a steady stream flowing through it. The yellow of the streetlight makes it look like liquid metal. “Before I left Hanamura, almost anyone that showed interest in me was after one thing only: power. Getting offered lavish gifts or taken to extravagant locales means nothing if they do not actually enjoy your company. I have come to prefer something with more meaning.”

“You sayin’ you’d prefer a burger and a shake than candles and five courses?”

“As long as they are with someone who is not after the heir to the Shimada Empire,” Hanzo says, bitterness seeping into the words. But he lightens, because the man behind him could care less what his surname is. “Those things have their place, but…” He smiles out at the rain, pressing his knee to Jesse’s calf. “I do have a soft spot for onion rings.”

“A man after my own heart,” Jesse grins, pressing a kiss to Hanzo’s cheek.

“With spicy dipping sauce,” he adds.

“Of course. No other way to have it. So, next time, I’ll take you somewhere for onion rings and remember to bring some mints.”

“And what would those be for?” Hanzo asks, smile widening.

“I think you can figure it out,” Jesse teases.

He bestows another kiss on Hanzo’s cheek, then another, gentle kisses one after the other down to his jaw. When he gets there Jesse opens his mouth and licks at the sharp cut of the bone, lingering and breathing in his scent. And beneath the serape his hands begin to wander. Hanzo pulls in a breath, body going still. “What are you doing?” he asks.

“Helping you relax,” Jesse replies. Strong fingers massage the slight give of his stomach, one hand sliding up the center of Hanzo’s chest then back down again. Hanzo shudders in his hold, unable to stop the tremor. His shirt bunches and pulls with each slow movement. Jesse nudges his lips against the soft spot just behind Hanzo’s ear. “Is this alright?”

“The others will hear,” Hanzo whispers, aware that they hardly have privacy up in this small loft. All it would take is one of their teammates to stand up fully and they might see.

Jesse nips at his ear, making him gasp. “You plannin’ on being loud?”

“No! But--but Zenyatta--”

“Meditating. He set himself to wake in a few hours.” His movements have worked Hanzo’s shirt up his abs so Jesse’s hands can slide underneath, palms tracing the defined muscles. “Is this alright?” Jesse asks again, opening his mouth and sucking at the rapid pulse beating just under Hanzo’s jaw.

Hanzo can do little more than nod, eyes slitting closed and head tipping back against Jesse’s shoulder. The permission seems to be all Jesse was waiting for. His mouth latches onto Hanzo’s neck where he lavishes attention with his tongue and teeth, and his hands push the shirt up Hanzo’s torso so they can cup his pecs. Hanzo squirms and presses back into Jesse’s chest at the unexpected touch, unaccustomed to anyone paying that part of himself much mind. But Jesse squeezes them with a sure touch, pushing them up, running his fingers over nipples that pebbled almost as soon as Jesse’s hands were on him. He bites his lower lip when Jesse’s clever fingers find the hardened buds and lightly pinch them.

“You don’t know how long I’ve been wantin’ to do this,” Jesse murmurs in his ear, groping freely at Hanzo’s chest. “Watchin’ you at the firin’ range, your arms pullin’ the bowstring…” His hands match his words, sliding up to Hanzo’s shoulders and down the length of his arms, like he wants to trace every curve of muscle from collar bone to wrist. Hanzo’s fingers go loose around the grip of his bow but he does not drop it, not yet, struggling to hang on and not lose sight of where they are and why he is at the window in the first place. His eyes dart out the glass, cheeks flushing at the thought of someone seeing them. But even if they were being watched, the fabric of the serape draped around them hides everything but the vaguest of movements.

Jesse massages his way back up Hanzo’s forearms and biceps before slipping back to his chest, his prosthetic cupping a pec again and teasing the nipple with his thumb. The other arm wraps around Hanzo’s waist and drags him back another inch and Hanzo has to bite down a sound when his rear rubs up against something hard through Jesse’s denim. He cants his hips back and Jesse grinds against him, a soft groan just barely audible against Hanzo’s shoulder.

Then Jesse’s flesh and blood hand slides down to Hanzo’s waist, then lower. “Jesse,” Hanzo protests, halfhearted at best. One hand leaves the bow to grip Jesse’s wrist. “We can’t--”

“Do you want me to stop?” Jesse asks, hands stilling and even pulling off of Hanzo’s skin by a few centimeters. Hanzo can hear the sincerity in his voice, the honest question, and it is one of the things that drew Hanzo to Jesse from the very beginning. If Hanzo asked him to stop he would in a heartbeat. They could stop everything right now and Jesse would happily kiss him goodnight and curl up on their pile of blankets, because Jesse wants people to be comfortable and happy above all else.

But he does not want him to stop.

Twisting his neck around Hanzo catches Jesse’s lips with his own. The bow clatters dully to the ground and one of his hands comes up to card through Jesse’s hair to hold him in place while the other grips at his thigh. Then those rough hands are back on him, lighting Hanzo’s skin on fire at every touch. Jesse teases a nipple between his fingers and tugs the drawstring of his pants loose with the other hand.

Maybe it is the shadows closing them off from the rest of the world, maybe it is the serape obscuring Jesse’s actions from view. Maybe it is just because he has wanted this for what feels like months, but Hanzo cannot hold back the moan that rips free from his throat when Jesse’s hand brushes over soft black curls to wrap around Hanzo’s cock. “Shh,” Jesse whispers against his mouth. “Shh, I’ve got you.”

Hanzo’s eyes cast about unseeing before squeezing shut, tilting his head back and panting at the pleasure. It has been far too long since he had another’s touch. Jesse works him slow and steady, just the right amount of pressure and friction to have him rocking up into each stroke. Never has he felt so surrounded by someone else. The feeling is intoxicating, overwhelming. And then Jesse starts talking.

“I couldn’t wait,” he murmurs hot and heavy in Hanzo’s ear. “I tried, I really did. You just looked so good, all damn day. So gorgeous. Most gorgeous thing I ever saw.” He gentles his touch to barely a feather’s touch of his knuckles up the curve of Hanzo’s cock and the other man rutts up trying to chase the feeling. “I knew you’d be beautiful like this. Wish I could see you better. Want to lay you out and just look my fill.”

“Jesse,” Hanzo whines, a tiny sound that barely makes it out of his throat. It is taking everything he has not to make noise; he never thought of himself as particularly vocal in bed but not having the luxury makes it so much more difficult to contain. “Do not stop, Jesse.”

“I got you,” Jesse assures, kissing him again. Grip turning firm, he speeds up his movements. His thumb slides in the dampness leaking from Hanzo’s slit, the slick friction making Hanzo jolt and buck against Jesse’s hand. The cowboy holds him steady and Hanzo quickly falls apart. It is like he does not know what to do with his hands, grasping everywhere he can touch just for something to hold onto, eventually settling back in Jesse’s hair to keep him close with the tight knot of his fingers. His whole body tightens as he approaches his peak, practically biting at Jesse’s mouth as Jesse’s hand goes faster. A hard press to the ridge just below the head, a rough squeeze from the hand on his chest, and Hanzo’s mouth falls open in a silent scream. His hips stutter, and if he was not so busy coming all over the underside of Jesse’s serape he might feel bad about making such a mess.

When he comes back to himself Hanzo finds that his chest is heaving for air and his pants are twisted uncomfortably around the tops of his thighs. Also that Jesse is still holding him close and murmuring nonsense words in Spanish into his hair. The prosthetic sits warm and possessive on his stomach. Hanzo reaches up to push his bangs out of his face. “I cannot believe you did that,” he breathes.

“Sorry, darlin’, I didn’t quite catch that.” It takes Hanzo a moment to realize he forgot himself and spoke in Japanese. He repeats the question in English, his singing nerves slowly calming down. “Ah,” Jesse chuckles. “I’d do a lot more if we weren’t on a mission.”

Hanzo is sure he would. Pity, really. He rests against Jesse’s body and becomes aware of the hard length still pressed against his backside. “What about you?” he whispers, moving to turn around, but Jesse holds him still.

“I’m fine,” Jesse insists. “Really.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’d rather not have to keep quiet, if it’s all the same to you,” he drawls, making Hanzo flush hot to the face. Now he finds shame. He tries to turn again but Jesse just laughs and squeezes him around the middle. “Just sit here with me for a minute.”

“At least let me fix my clothes,” Hanzo mutters. His hands are clumsy as he shifts his pants back into place, wrinkling his nose at the sticky fluid he encounters on the cloth over him. “Your serape--”

“Aww, shit, whoops, I forgot about that,” Jesse says, chagrined. Giving him his modesty even after what they just did, Jesse waits until Hanzo is finished to tug the fabric free. He does not bother to check the serape himself, just balling it up and tossing it toward his bag. “Don’t worry, I got a spare.”

“I am sorry.”

“I ain’t.” He punctuates it with another tender kiss to Hanzo’s neck, then to his cheek, then his temple.

“Me neither,” he murmurs. Jesse huffs another laugh, reclining so his back rests against the wall. Hanzo smiles and lets Jesse holds him, closing his eyes and breathing in their shared musk. Jesse was right. That certainly helped him relax. They should get up and move to sleep properly. They really should. And he will. After he rests his eyes for just a few minutes.

 

---

 

“Breaker breaker, this is Bubblegum Bunny here with Slick Ribbit, lookin’ for a Yeehaw McGraw and a Chrome Dome, over?”

Fareeha stirs behind Jesse’s shoulder, roused from the stupor she found herself in for the past half hour. “What are they doing now?”

“Don’t know,” Jesse says, making no move to grab the microphone.

“I said, this here is Bubblegum Bunny and Slick Ribbit, lookin’ for a Yeehaw McGraw and a Chrome Dome, over over roger over!”

This time Fareeha laughs into a yawn because Hana’s attempt at an American trucker accent is abysmal, somehow managing to sound like both a middle-aged man and a squeaky teenager all at once. There is a long beat of silence then someone clicks into the conversation.

“This is Chrome Dome,” Zenyatta replies, amused. “Hello Bubblegum Bunny.”

“Chrome Dome this is Bubblegum Bunny, we’re going double nickle at your back door, can someone tell Yeehaw McGraw to power up and step on it cause we need to pay the water bill and eat ‘em up, copy?”

“I am afraid I have no idea what you said, Miss...Bunny.”

“Don’t mind her,” comes Lúcio’s voice next over the speakers. “She got bored and found a trucker lingo dictionary on her phone--no, dont--”

“Come on, guys, I’m bored! And we need to pee!”

“I am afraid I do not know much about such bodily urges, but I believe the saying is ‘Can you hold it?’”

Hana whines across the radio, loud enough to make the noise distort. “I’ll try...are you sure there isn’t anywhere to stop?”

Fareeha reaches out and picks up the microphone from between the seats. “Unless you want to stop and go in the bushes,” she says after clicking the transmitter on. “We should be there in a little over an hour. Hey, how come I didn’t get a trucker handle?”

“You got one! We ended up deciding on Whirly Bird, but I had to make sure that wasn’t already something they said for helicopters. This guide only has Bear in the Air or Flying Donut because they only care about police helicopters. Anyway, you’re Whilry Bird, and, uh...well we couldn’t think of anything to call Ha--er, you-know-who that wouldn’t get us shot.”

“Not Legolas?” Fareeha asks. Then, to Jesse and off radio, “At least she remembered not to use our names.”

There is a beat of silence, then, “Oh my God that’s a good one! Why didn’t I think of that! Okay, yes, we’ll go with that.”

Jesse wonders vaguely what Hanzo thinks of that, recalling how he has tried the nickname out on the archer on occasion as a joke and his reaction is always dependant on his current moot. When Hanzo does not chime in Jesse assumes he is either fine with it or too busy watching the side of the road to pay attention. Maybe taking a nap, but Jesse doubts that Hanzo would risk it at this point in the mission. Especially since he actually managed to get some sleep.

Not long after their highly enjoyable dalliance at the window, Jesse had moved a sleep-pliant Hanzo over to the blankets to get some real rest. And even though they had a full day planned he still stayed awake for a while just to gaze at Hanzo and marvel over his sleeping visage, so calm and at ease compared to normal. He had indulged in carding fingers through long black hair and pressing another chaste kiss to his forehead before bedding down for the night himself.

The last thing he wanted to do the next morning was leave their little cocoon of blankets, but Jesse had places to be before first light. As it was he was up and dressed before any of the others began to stir, heading out across town to secure their transportation: three eighteen-wheelers laden down with gold.

Now, Jesse is man enough to admit that when he first laid eyes on all that cargo his first thought was less than altruistic. Even after all these years, there is still a little Deadlock in him. Because good God merciful heaven, a man could live like a king for several lifetimes with all that gold. He can just imagine the notoriety he would get if he stole all that money. And, judging by the uncertain and suspicious looks of some of the government agents he was meant to meet up with, they have their doubts about entrusting what is surely the net worth of a small country to a man that is still considered a criminal to a good chunk of the world. But as far as they know he has never committed any crimes in China, and Overwatch vouches for him, so they go over the safety measures installed on the vehicles and Jesse inspects every inch of the three trucks by the time the rest of his team arrives.

It gets decided that Jesse and Fareeha will take the first truck, Jesse behind the wheel so he can keep a sharp eye on the road ahead and navigate their little caravan. Fareeha has to spend the entire trip in her battle armor but she quickly dismisses their worries, claiming she is used to having to wear it for long periods and that she will be fine as long as she stays hydrated. The second truck has the bulk of the gold inside with Zenyatta at the wheel and Hanzo riding shotgun. If the situation gets bad enough, Jesse is counting on Hanzo’s dragons to buy them enough the others enough time to help. Lúcio and Hana are pulling up the rear, Hana’s MEKA stored behind the gold. And Jesse is hoping to keep them out of trouble if they are near the back. Lúcio’s truck driving skills are questionable at best, but Hana needs to be free to fight if necessary.

A fight that does not seem to be coming. Some nine hours later, they are on the last stretch of open road before they get near Kunming. They navigated some tight passageways through areas that Jesse thought a truck had no business traveling, but he has seen similar passes in canyons and mountain ranges before. Set his nerves on end, and Jesse decides he will never quit his day job to become a trucker.

For now they are riding along in a forest that is slowly getting darker with the setting sun. Jesse is road-weary and stiff and thinking that maybe they had nothing to worry about after all. None of them that are driving look Chinese, their trucks are emblazoned with advertisements for some sort of candy that Jesse has never heard of, and no one was expecting the shipment to come through the area. Even going through checkpoints goes smoothly, something Jesse had anticipated having an issue with. Part of him balks at the idea of anything going this easy, but stranger things have happened.

“Legolas says that the CB handle is acceptable, but thinks it lacks originality,” Zenyatta says.

“At least that is instantly recognizable! Lúcio wanted to call him--HEY!--no give me that ba--sto--GOD alright, I won’t say it, you are such a DRAMA QUEEN!”

In the background of her shouting they can hear Lúcio yelling back just as much, and Jesse reaches over to turn down the volume. Fareeha cuts in, hoping to calm them down. “You said you found an online dictionary for this?”

Attention grabbed, Hana goes from annoyed to enthusiastic. “Yeah! You should see some of the stuff on here. Oh my God, they have so many terms related to the police! Bear, big bear, mama bear, bear in the air, bear cave, bear trap, city kitty, county mounty, blue light special, fox in the henhouse, kojak with a kodak--what does that even refer to?”

Jesse groans, partly because he is old enough to remember what that references and partly because Hana’s mile-a-minute talking is wearing on his headache. He reaches over and snags the microphone from Fareeha and says, “Let’s cut the chatter, a’ight? I told y’all to only use the radio if you needed to.”

“But this is mind-numbing! I’m going crazy!”

“We’ll be there soon enough. Radio silence.”

Hana sighs out loud and long but agrees. “Fine. Party pooper. Threes and eights, over and out.”

“Whatever that means.” He puts the microphone back into its cradle with a sigh and takes the opportunity to twist his head left and right and shake out his shoulders. “How you doin’ back there?”

“Hanging in there,” Fareeha says, head tipped forward to rest against the headrest of the passenger seat. “I’m going to be glad when this is over.”

“Same.” They slip into a companionable silence for a while. It is a comfort. Jesse always finds it a pleasure working with Fareeha. Even if she was too young for them to work together when he was with Blackwatch, they know each other well enough to naturally work together cohesively. It feels natural, like she has always been at his back. They did learn under the same wing, after all.

Plus, he can use it as an opportunity to gossip. “So I got myself a theory.”

“Uh oh. Not another theory,” she teases. “Is this anything like your Mary Poppins theory?”

“Listen, Mary Poppins is a Time Lord and you cannot tell me otherwise. She always arrives out of the blue to help in times of trouble, she hangs out with all sorts of weird creatures--aliens, thank you--her viewpoints are always controversial to the time period. Fareeha, her bag is a TARDIS, I swear it is--”

“I regret asking.” Still, curiosity piqued, she sits up. “Alright, I’ll bite. What’s your theory?”

“I think,” Jesse drawls, “that there’s more to Genji and Zenyatta’s relationship than master-and-student.”

Armored gauntlets grip both seats and she hoists herself up close so she can stick her head through the gap between them. “ No . Really? Why?”

“It’s just a hunch, but come on. Did you see them when we were leaving yesterday morning?”

She gasps. “I did, but I thought it was just me misinterpreting--yeah, that hug did not look platonic at all. I felt like I was watching something I shouldn’t be.”

“So there’s that, and the touching. I mean, sure, Genji has gotten better about physical contact, especially with people he is close with, but there’s touching and then there’s touching, if you get my meaning--”

“Oh I get you. Believe me. And have you noticed how Genji talks to him? Sometimes the way he says ‘Master’ sounds downright filthy!”

“And Zenyatta is just as bad. He will get to staring at Genji with that head tilt of his, the one he does when he finds somethin’ really damn interesting, especially when Genji is talkin’ with his hands.”

“You could be wrong.”

“Could be, but I don’t think so.”

“Do you think Hanzo knows?”

Jesse huffs out a laugh. “Not a chance. I wonder if that’s why they’re keepin’ it hush-hush. Let Hanzo get used to the idea.” He scratches at his beard, thoughtful. “It’s curious, though. For the longest time I could swear Genji was gone on Angela--”

He jerks the steering wheel hard to the right before he consciously registers the flare of sparks. Just in time, as the truck rocks forward and in that direction with the force of the explosion that follows. For a precious few seconds that feel like an eternity, the truck tips upward, the left wheels leaving the broken gravel and asphalt before slamming back down again. It takes all Jesse’s strength to keep the truck pointed forward. “Shit!” he shouts, gripping the wheel and gunning the gas. “Ambush!”

There is a series of explosions after that, one after the other and all behind their truck. In his side mirror Jesse sees the other two trucks swerve wildly to the side. Taking his eyes off the road proves to be a mistake, though, because when he looks back he sees the spike strip far too late.

The tires blow one after the other. “Hang on!” he yells as the truck immediately starts to fishtail. He is dimly aware of shouts on the radio, Fareeha clammering to the back doors and flinging them open, but tunnel vision sets in quick so all Jesse can process is the terrain immediately ahead of them.

They slam sideways into two trees and Fareeha is blasting out of the back before Jesse can even register what is happening. Rattled, he fumbles for Peacekeeper and throws the door open just as the second truck goes screaming by. Zenyatta must have managed to avoid the spike strip. Hanzo leaps from the truck as he passes, rolling to his feet and running up to Jesse in a panic. “Are you alright?” he asks, bow drawn and pointed back the way they came even as his eyes trace over Jesse for injuries.

“I’m sure it’ll hurt later,” he says as they both press their backs to the side of the truck. “Zen making a break for it?”

“Just getting it out of the way. He’ll be back. Did you see anyone?”

“No. But they were waiting.” He eases out and tries to look back down toward the third truck. It is off to the side of the road, having taken damage and rolled to a stop in the ditch. Smoke seeps steadily from under the hood. “I can’t see Hana or Lúcio.”

“They didn’t respond on the comms. I’m going to get a better look.”

Hanzo turns to scale the side of the truck and gets the crampons of one prosthetic dug into the metal before Jesse stops him with a soft, “Hey. Be careful.”

“And you,” he replies before climbing the trailer with ease.

Jesse kneels down and tries to scan down the treeline but cannot see anything, the smoke and dust from the explosions still hanging in the air heavy enough to obscure everything beyond a certain distance. In his ear Hanzo’s voice clicks on as if they are still standing side-by-side. “I see Lúcio. He’s under the truck.”

“I’m okay,” Lúcio pants, voice crackling with static. “Damn bomb nearly deafened me, and I had to stop drop and roll, but I’m okay.”

“D.Va?”

“Waiting to engage,” Hana replies, all the humor and fun wiped from her voice and replaced with cool professionalism.

“Pharah, report?” Jesse asks.

He can barely hear her jet in the air above. She must be high enough that maybe their attackers will not see her. “Vehicle incoming from the west. Looks like...some sort of tank? Moving to intercept.”

“Hold, hold your position. What do you mean a tank--?” Too late for an answer, Jesse startles when he hears a loud diesel engine coming through the trees and the forest lights up. They all collectively duck out of sight, making themselves small and unnoticeable. Then--well, Jesse can certainly say that whoever this is knows how to make an entrance.

Tank is accurate, though he is sure the military types that drive tanks would take offense. Crudely welded steel and rusted iron crafted together in a monstrosity of a vehicle that looks part snow plow and part armored carrier. And loud. So loud. Louder than anything that size has a right to be and billowing some black smoke for good measure. It rolls up on tank treads straight for the third truck and Lúcio rolls out of sight near the back tires.

The side door opens and a man with hardly any meat on his bones jumps out, dressed like something right of Mad Max and just as dirty. “Fair suck of the sav! Did you see that? Worked just like I said it would, eh?”

A meaty arm sticks out the open window frame on the other side, motioning at the cab of the truck. “Where’s the driver?”

The skinny one pulls a complicated weapon from a holster on his back. “Let’s take a lookey-loo, shall we?”

Their accents sound Australian to Jesse. They certainly are not locals. Glancing up he can see Hanzo has flattened himself against the roof of the trailer, just his head poking out the side. The archer looks down at him questioningly, and Jesse shrugs. He does not have a clue who these two could be, but they are surely dangerous if they planted explosives on a public roadway. Jesse or Hanzo could try to circle around and flank them, but the trees are not that thick and he does not want to risk giving away their position. Plus Lúcio is vulnerable on the ground by himself. They cannot risk his safety.

Practically skipping around front of the truck, the first man goes up to the driver’s side and throws the door open, surprised to find it empty. “Oy! Where’d they go!” He climbs up and looks to see if anyone is jammed under the dash, then hops back down. “Looks like we got a tortoise, Roadie.”

There’s a grunt from inside the vehicle, then the driver door opens. A huge beast of a man steps out, nearly as round as he is tall. Jesse swears he would probably give Reinhardt a run for his money. The leather mask he sports obscures his features and there are air filter cartridges attached under the nose, an odd thing to see on a beautiful clear day but maybe not so odd if you are planning a violent explosion. He yanks the back of his pants up and lumbers over to the shorter man. “Could be a runner.”

“Nah. Tortoise, would bet money on it.” They exchange a look, silent communication, and start for the back of the truck. Jesse can hear the little guy humming a jaunty little tune to himself, tapping the sides of the truck with his weapon as he goes. Under the truck Lúcio belly crawls forward hoping they will not hear him. When the two men reach the back the bigger man levels his gun at the back doors. The smaller man giggles with excitement. “Knock knock, kiddies, come out and play!” he sings, gripping the handle.

With a loud bang the doors burst open, one of them flying off at the hinge. D.Va shoots out in her MEKA, boosters at full blast and fusion cannons already firing. “Shitworms spotted! Time to raise my APM!”

The two startled men dive to the side--or stumble awkwardly, in the big one’s case--and shoot back. Fire blooms against the MEKA’s side and everyone flies into motion. After that things get a bit chaotic.

Jesse’s never been in a firefight with quite so many explosions happening at once. The little one, the one with the manic laugh, has some sort of grenade launcher that he uses like a water pistol, hurling indiscriminately and with little care for accuracy or control. His buddy is just as bad, shooting with a homemade gun that has more shrapnel spray than any shotgun. Luckily his precision and range is awful and the only one getting close enough to deal with it has a thick layer of metal to protect her. But it’s the kind of wild recklessness with a weapon that drives Jesse to anger.

Between the grenades, the shrapnel, fusion cannons, Pharah swooping in with her missiles, Lúcio’s music, and his own gunfire, Jesse thinks they might all be deaf if they manage to live through this. The fight covers the road and into the surrounding trees, tearing up the terrain and leaving him glad there are no residences nearby. Jesse finds himself ducking from cover to cover to avoid fire. He sees flashes of Hanzo in the corner of his eye and sees the evidence of his presence in the arrows he runs by, burried in the ground or the sides of the trucks, but he has no time to find him in the battle. Zenyatta joins the fight seamlessly, and his added assistance helps to turn the skirmish in their favor.

Jesse catches sight of the skinny one making a break for one of the trucks, ducking inside the blown open doors, and he sets out to follow. Inside he can see the theif trying to desperately shove gold bars into the satchel at his waist. And running his mouth. “It’s the little things,” he coos, sighing happily as he picks up another bar and holds it to the light. “Ooooh, shiney!”

He turns and startles as Jesse comes running up, gun drawn. “Like a sittin’ duck,” he says, smirking at the panic that crosses his opponent’s features.

The man glares at him, flipping the gold up in the air and catching it one handed. “Hey! Get outta my light, ya drongo!”

“Drop my gold,” Jesse counters. “And reach for the sky.”

“Now, that I can do,” he says, holding his hands up. Jesse sees the detonator held loose in his free hand just as a beeping goes off underfoot. The Australian grins. “Surprise!”

Getting blown backwards is not fun. Jesse would be the first to say so. At least he manages to avoid injury but he is still knocked onto his ass. Hopefully none of the others saw that little misstep, but while his ears are ringing Jesse sternly reminds himself not to fall for anything that stupid again.

The man hops down from the truck and takes the opportunity to make a break for the tank, apparently satisfied enough to abandon the rest of the gold. Jesse rolls to his feet and takes off after him, but there is no way he will catch up with the faster man. Thinking fast, he pulls a flashbang and lobs it hard toward the tank itself. It strikes the door and explodes, dazing the man and sending him reeling in a circle before dropping to his knees. When he comes out of his stun Jesse is standing before him with Peacekeeper trained on his skull, hammer cocked and ready. “Now just hold on,” Jesse says.

Nervous laughter bubbles from the junker’s slim frame and he holds his hands up before him in a semblance of surrender. Nothing that Jesse plans on trusting anytime soon. “Hey hey hey, let’s be reasonable--”

“I tried being reasonable, didn’t take to it.”

The babbling starts in earnest then, a stream of implausible explanations and apologies and maybe some bribes in there. Jesse has no plan on killing the man, but he would like to not get shot at anymore. He makes to grab for one of the man’s arms, intent on subduing him for questioning, when he hears D.Va scream from behind. “McCree! Watch out!”

The meat hook barely misses his stomach, slinging past on a chain. He stumbles back to avoid the return yank and turns his gun on the big man who is now barrelling toward him like a freight train. Jesse raises his gun to fire when the little guy leaps between them, holding up his arms wide and shouting. “Wait! Wait! Stop! Don’t shoot! Wait! Everybody stop!”

“Get out of the way, Jamison. I’m gonna make him squeal,” the large man growls, shoving a handful of shrapnel into his gun and moving to push past.

“Just wait, Roadie!” The man, Jamison, shouts at his friend, throwing a hand against his big belly to push him back. Jesse does not expect him to stop but he does, yielding to Jamison’s order. The others move into position to surround the two thieves, all weapons pointed where they stand but no one makes to attack. Jamison looks back at Jesse, panting and clearly scared but thinking quickly. “She called you McCree.”

Jesse eyes the scrap gun held by Roadie warily, then looks Jamison in the eye. “That’s the name.”

“Jesse McCree?” he asks for clarification.

Shifting his weight, Jesse nods once.

Jamison’s eyes go wide and he stumbles back a step into Roadie’s gut. “Hooley dooley,” he utters, looking awed. He pushes the bigger man’s arm so he will put his weapon down. “You’re Jesse McCree! He’s--he’s Jesse McCree--you’re THE Jesse McCree!” When no one says anything, he elaborates. “You emptied out the Grand Marshal Credit Union with a crew of four! Four! It had never been robbed before, but you did it, without even breaking the safe! You took out the Laughing Skull gang, wiped them clean off the map! You’re the first man to ever rob a hypertrain without it ever slowing below two-hundred kilometers an hour! We still can’t figure out how you pulled that one off. You’ve got a sixty million dollar bounty!” He clasps his hands in front of him in lieu of removing a hat. “It is an honor, sir, an honor and a privilege!

Jesse risks a glance at Hanzo, who is perched behind the two with his bow pointed at Roadie’s head. The archer shrugs, just as thrown by this display as he is. “Thanks?” Jesse says, looking back at Jamison.

“Truly! If we’d have known--tell him Roadie--if we knew you’d claimed this loot we never would have gone after it, swear on me mum’s grave--”

“Don’t swear on your mum’s grave, that’s morbid,” Roadie chastises.

“Right, swear on me dad’s grave, we would have left it right well enough alone! Fair dinkum! Hell, we’ll even help you load it up, if you want. Awful sorry to be of trouble.” He glances around at the others, nerves visibly fraying in front of them as he realizes how surrounded they are. His eyes linger on Lúcio and Zenyatta, curious and confused and suspicious all at once. “Interesting gang you run with now,” he tries, that nervous laugh bubbling out again.

Well. This is not how he expected his evening to go. “Put your guns down,” Jesse says, frowning at them. Jamison hesitates just a moment before putting his frag launcher on the gravel at his feet. His friend seems a lot more reluctant but eventually follows suit with his gun and meat hook disconnected from its chain. Then Jamison puts down a few more bombs and one of his traps for good measure, all in a neat little pile. Jesse starts forward, not lowering his gun but keeping his gait easy, affecting more confidence than he really has. Everything about this situation is weird and he is not sure where to take it, but he figures he can make it up as he goes along. That has always worked for him in the past. “You sure that’s all you got?” he asks, stopping a few feet from them.

“Are you accusing me of booby trapping?” Jamison exclaims, acting offended. When all he gets is a raised eyebrow in reply, he rolls his eyes and rips open the vest he was wearing, closed with stips of velcro. Strapped to his waist is a complicated belt lined with wires and little packs of what Jesse thinks are various explosives, and possibly acid if the chartreuse liquid in one of the pouches is any indication. Jamison engages the failsafes and removes the belt, dropping it haphazardly on top of the rest. It takes all Jesse has not to dive backward for fear of the whole lot exploding. “Disarmed, mate.”

Jesse squats down and looks the small arsenal over. “Impressive,” he says. He wants to examine the belt, but thinks that is the fastest way to the mortuary. Instead he picks up the frag launcher, eyeing Jamison down when he reaches out as if to stop him. When he settles back Jesse turns his attention to the weapon. It is definitely homemade, one-of-a-kind. Rather complicated, Jesse thinks, even if it is made with battered and rusted parts. “You make this?”

“Of course I did. Make all my own gear, and Roadie’s too. It’s the only way to make sure it’s made right.” There is a streak of pride in the statement, and Jesse likes the sound of it.

“Odd choice of weapon. Can’t say I’m too happy with who you were aimin’ for, but you got a knack for makin’ good use of what you got.” He sets the launcher down and stands, waving his gun at them. “Jamison. Would that be Jamison Fawkes?”

He perks up, surprised again. “Well, yeah, that’d be me. Go by Junkrat.”

“And you must be Mako Rutledge,” Jesse continues, stepping around the pile of weaponry. Jamison backs up into the bigger man again as if he might shield him from the cowboy with the gun. “Roadhog. I’ve heard of you.” Roadhog grunts in response, uneasy. Jesse tilts his head and smiles. “I heard there's a nice reward for bringing you fellas in.”

“Maybe we could, erm, work something out, mate?” Jamison suggests with a nervous laugh, hands turning up and pleading.

Jesse squints at them, considering what he is about to offer. Winston is going to kill him, he is pretty sure. “Maybe. How’d you feel about joining a different kind of gang?”

“McCree,” Pharah hisses, a clear warning through her helmet.

“We could always use people with more unique talents,” Jesse continues. “And your talents are certainly unique.”

Jamison shifts from one foot to the other, jittery and nervous. “I don’t know. Me and Roadie tend to go it solo.”

“McCree,” Pharah says again, sharper.

At the same time D.Va chimes in, “I don’t think this is a good idea.”

The two outlaws bristle at that, Jamison glaring at them before looking back to Jesse. “It doesn’t mean we aren’t interested in hearing the offer!”

“What are your terms?” Rutledge asks.

“Well, first, you leave this gold where you found it,” Jesse says. He raises his gun up to push his hat higher, the waning sunlight lighting his face. “You come with us, you’ll get three square meals, a safe little place to call home, no more fightin’ for handouts, no more risk of radiation sickness. No more scavengin’ unless you want to and you can even buy some stuff new. The catch is, no more robberies, no more stealin’. You keep your hands out of other people’s pockets.” He can read the flash of hope on Jamison’s face even as it wars with confusion. Jesse has seen the news reports from Australia, knows the irradiated hellhole they came from. Something inside him goes out to these two drifters, especially Jamison. He thinks maybe this is what Gabe felt all those years ago when he found a smart-mouthed kid that did not know when to shut up. “You can either join us, or we’re goin’ to take you in and get that bounty for ourselves.”

Jamison glances up at Rutledge, expressions unreadable, before peering back at Jesse. “What kind of gang is this?”

His grin widens. He taps the emblem on his hat, gleaming gold, and watches the puzzle pieces fall into place. “Overwatch. You ever heard of it?”

The look on Jamison’s face is priceless.

 

---

 

It takes six ruined sheets of paper for Jesse to get the letter as he wants it. His penmanship is just as crooked as always but at least it is legible, and still he crumples the seventh sheet halfway through before convincing himself to finish. Flattening the paper out again, the ink only smeared on a few of the words along the right side. That will be good enough.

Glancing at the clock, he sighs. What does it say about him that he only writes these in the dead of night when his conscious gets the better of him?

Doubt resurges and he rereads the words one more time.

 

Ana,

Hey, it’s me. Sorry it’s been so long since I last wrote. You know how it is, getting into the rhythm of training and missions with all these new recruits. Some of them are a handful. And back-talkers! One of the ones we picked up this week can hardly keep his mouth shut. Remind you of anyone?

How are you? Are you still growing wildflowers? I still have the dried ones you sent me, and the pictures. Wish I could have come and seen them for myself. Fareeha said you’d been traveling but wouldn’t mention where. Sneaking off to do some work on the side? Just promise me that you’re staying safe. I know, I know, I’m a big old hypocrite, but promise me anyway.

Things are going good here. The team is really coming together, way better than I expected. We really work well together. Fareeha is doing amazing, just like I knew she would. You’d be so proud to see her in action. Scared witless, too, but proud. I’ve been pushing Winston to put her on missions with Reinhardt. He keeps an eye on her, and I know it will make you feel better about it. I hear they’re talking about taking an ice fishing trip sometime this winter. Never understood how they could stand it. Me and you could stay inside and drink hot tea while they freeze their toes off.

I wanted to tell you. Remember Hanzo Shimada? I told you about him last letter. The archer? I didn’t have anything to be nervous about. I’m sure Fareeha already told you, but I wanted you to know. He feels the same. Makes me feel giddy as a goat thinking about it.

Now, don’t be mad, but I told him about you. I know you made me promise but I couldn’t lie to him. He didn’t really seem surprised, which I should have expected considering everything. God, I hope someday you can meet him in person. We could all go shooting together, and y’all snipers can show me up at long-range.

Anyway, that isn’t what I wanted to talk to you about. I need some advice. I’ve been sitting on this for a while thinking I must be certifiable for even considering it, but I just can’t shake it. Maybe you can see something I don’t. Enclosed with this you should find a report from a few weeks ago and two things I found on the mission. You won’t find them in the report. And don’t lecture me about hiding things from my superior officers, I know damn well you did it all the time. Besides, Morrison is here (yeah don’t get me started on that, I’m sure Fareeha told you how well that news went down) and I don’t need him getting all riled up about it if it’s nothing.

Read it over and tell me what you think. Am I being paranoid? I don’t feel like I’m wrong.

I hope I’m wrong.

Take care and keep safe.

Missing you always,

Jesse McCree

 

Chapter Text

Jesse does not consider himself to be a stupid man. Sure, he makes stupid decisions on occasion. Less now than he did in his youth, so he can count that as progress, but he does his best not to say or do foolish things. And even though he was never given the chance to excel in the classroom he does not consider himself stupid. He thinks there are times where he is rather clever, actually.

But sitting at this table right now, listening to Jamison and Satya on his left and Mei and Winston on his right, he feels right simple by comparison.

“Have you considered using a leaf spring?” Jamison asks, using a roll to sop up as much gravy as he possibly can from his plate before taking a massive bite.

“That would be positively medieval,” Satya says dismissively, but stops to ponder the question anyway. “How would you compensate for the limited suspension tuning?”

He does not swallow before answering, which bothers her greatly but she is too invested in his answer to correct him. “Since the rig would be suspended, and there would be only one user, all you would need to do is build the spring to those weight specifications. You wouldn’t need to adjust. Gravity would take care of the rest.”

Jesse shifts his focus from the left to the right, hoping to find something he can latch onto on that side of the table.

“--and I’m just saying, while using the gravitational pull of the planets would put the ice comets on a vaguely correct path, there is no way we have the technology to properly aim them in such a way they would not miss the moon and strike Earth instead.” Mei picks up her napkin to dab at the corners of her mouth. “And not just once, but dozens of times in order to get the moon’s rotation to speed up enough to have a feasible day-cycle.”

Winston’s frown deepens, as it always does when he has a scientific argument with the climatologist on something climate related. He rarely wins. “There is no way we have the resources currently on Earth to kickstart that kind of terraforming. It only works with the help of comet manipulation.”

“I’m not arguing that, I’m just saying that it is relying on a lot of luck and chance. And when you’re using Jupiter to slingshot a comet directly at the celestial body that controls the tides on Earth, you need to be more sure of the outcome.”

Nope, no conversation to be had there. Taking another bite from his sandwich he glances over at the other side of the table. He feels another stab of envy at Lena for her position between Angela and Hanzo. If he was in her seat not only would he probably not have a headache, but he would also have an arm draped over the back of Hanzo’s chair so he could stealthily touch the archer, maybe dig his thumb gently into the sore muscles of his shoulders. And then Hanzo would look over at him with those dark brown eyes and maybe, just maybe, Jesse could steal a kiss. It would get him a pinch or a punch for showing that much blatant affection in front of the group, but it would be a small price to pay.

Jesse fights down a sigh and takes another bite. If only.

The other man must feel eyes on him because he looks up from his meal, meeting Jesse’s gaze. Hanzo smiles automatically, a small private thing just for Jesse. It makes Jesse’s insides twist with pleasure and he tries not to grin like an idiot back at the man, but it is a close thing.

They have not seen each other for more than five minutes at a time over the past week or so thanks to a slew of little missions. True to his word Winston has stepped up his attempts to fight back against Talon. Jesse has gone to no less than five places in six days, short hops for half-day assignments with one or two other agents, almost always for infiltration. And since they now have the added aspect of possibly figuring out what Reaper is after, Jesse has been invested in being a part of any mission he can that might lead to the information he is looking for. Nothing substantial has come from that yet, but he has hope.

In the meantime, he and Hanzo have been communicating mostly by text. It had been quite the revelation to learn that Hanzo Shimada actually knows what an emoji is and uses them frequently and liberally. It should not have been surprising; Genji is the same way and he has to keep reminding himself that they grew up in Japan, where cute little text pictures were born and flourished. He can only imagine how adorable a text conversation between the two brothers would be. Full of stars and flowers and cats, cats, cats.

Needless to say, Jesse has already apologized for how lacking his own texts are when he and Hanzo are apart. The best he can do is whatever is preloaded in his phone, but Hanzo just laughs (or lol’s, or lmao’s, or any number of other cute acronyms; he expresses emotion much more readily with symbols and ascii) and says that it is fine, Jesse is creative enough with the words he says, he needs not worry about how he says it.

Today is the first day he and Hanzo will have any substantial time together. Hanzo got back to base late last night from a two-day stint in Egypt with Fareeha, and though Jesse stayed up to greet them when their carrier arrived, all it took was one look at the two exhausted agents for Jesse to usher them both off to bed. The archer looks well-rested now, as handsome as always. As soon as they get through this afternoon meeting he is going to whisk Hanzo away somewhere just the two of them and see where their day off takes them.

“--you wouldn’t need that many comets if they had enough mass and density of ice,” Winston is saying, becoming more insistent.

Mei laughs, light and airy and full of victory. “So you are suggesting replacing close to a hundred or so small lethal projectiles--comet-sized, mind you--with fewer, larger ones, all relying on mankind’s ability to disintegrate them at just the right time to not cause global annihilation. Is that right?”

“We aren’t talking about logistics, we’re talking about theory.”

“We are talking about how hard it will be to implement a theory practically. Logistics have to be a part of the equation. Besides, like I said, you would need far more strikes to get the moon spinning fast enough on its axis, and at the precise angle to create a seasonal system. And comets with enough variety of composition that we get all the elements we need. Plus enough material to create an atmosphere that can sustain such a system! We don’t want an atmosphere that is only a few thousand feet.”

“How much would you suggest?” Winston asks. “For sustaining a proper climate and air quality?”

“A few miles, at least.”

“How up is space?”

The four scientists (five, Jesse corrects, he would totally call Hanzo a scientist, a sexy little math scientist) go silent and turn in unison to gape a little at Lena, trying to reconcile the odd wording of the question and just what it is she means. Lena, for her part, just looks around expectantly and pops another pretzel into her mouth, crunching loudly.

Jamison recovers enough to speak, but looks completely befuddled. “How up is--do you mean where the atmosphere ends? Or how far away it travels? Or--I honestly have no idea what you’re asking, mate.”

“I don’t see how it’s that hard a question,” Lena replies, and points up with her index finger like that makes things remotely clearer. “How up is space?”

Next to her, Hanzo’s lips twist with amusement. Most of the others have grown accustomed to Lena’s rather erratic thought process, only part of which is a side-effect of her chronal disassociation. Her thoughts jump as much as her body sometimes and though she does not always take the most logical path she usually gets there in the end. It is just one of her quirks. One of which Jamison is wholly unused to.

“This is nothing,” Satya says imperiously, sipping at her tea. “You should hear her go on about grapes.”

“Grapes? What about--hey hey hey hey HEY! Where do you think you’re taking that? I was still eating!” While his attention was captured by the anomaly that is Lena Oxton, Angela had risen from the other side of the table and deftly swooped in to take his plate from him. Jamison makes a lunge for it but Angela is far too swift, smoothly moving the food out of reach.

“We have discussed this, Mr. Fawkes. Malnutrition can be just as debilitating as a gunshot wound if left untreated, and gorging yourself will be just as harmful! We agreed that we would ramp up your food intake slowly to keep you from ending up in the infirmary. That means you are done eating for now, and it is time for your vitamins.” She rotates to bring her other arm around and opens her hand, presenting no less than fifteen pills in a little colorful pile on her palm. “You may eat a snack again in three hours, but not a moment sooner. And you must finish your protein shake first.”

“Alright, alright already!” Jamison uses his long fingers to scrape the pills off her hand and into his own, grumbling the whole time about how pushy she was and if all doctors were that pushy.

Angela is unaffected, simply watching until he downs the handful in two big swallows. Jesse half expects her to make him stick out his tongue to prove he is not hiding them under his tongue. “We do not need another incident like the one from Tuesday, do we?”

Jamison narrows his eyes at her but cannot argue the point, face turning red beneath his tan. “No, I suppose we don’t.”

Tuesday was a rough night for the junker. He devoured enough food in such a short amount of time that his body rejected it. Turns out you really can have too much of a good thing. Rutledge found him lying on the floor of his bunk curled over in the fetal position from severe cramps, belly distended and hard to the touch. Jesse sat with him through part of the night along with Rutledge and Angela while the poor guy dry heaved his way through all those calories.

“Don’t feel too bad, she’s got your best interests at heart,” Jesse says, following it up with a firm and friendly pat to the back. “I was the same way when I got pulled into Blackwatch. Felt like I had to eat everythin’ I laid eyes on cause I wasn’t sure if it would be there the next time I looked. It takes a while to get used to it, but eventually you stop lookin’ at every meal like it’s the Last Supper.”

“I saw,” Angela says, flat but fond. “The doctor they had on staff then took pictures for your file. I could not believe how much weight you put on between then and when I joined. You looked like a different person.”

Jesse takes on an injured expression. “Angie, you sayin’ I’m fat?”

“I am saying your metabolism finally caught up with you,” she smirks. “But I will allow that you’re currently healthy enough, smoking habit notwithstanding. Back then you looked like a dirty starving coyote. With mange.”

“Mange?” Satya asks, nose wrinkling in distaste.

“Angela never was fond of the soul patch,” he says, tapping his chin. The others chuckle, and Jesse turns his attention back to Jamison. “We’ll get you in good shape in no time.”

Jamison nods, doubt and hope warring in his expression. So far he has more easily believed Jesse’s word over anyone else’s, so Jesse has been as open and frank with Jamison as he can. They have a ways to go before they earn the Australians’ trust, but Jesse has no doubt they will get there eventually. Picking up his now ever-present thermos (nutritional formula for adults, but everyone is being careful not to use that word so Jamison will not feel worse about it) Jamison comments, “It’ll be hard yakka getting Mako to go on your little diet plan you cooked up.”

“It isn’t because of his weight,” Angela says, for perhaps the tenth time since it was brought up. “We want him to be healthy, just as we want you to be healthy. To normalize your eating habits.”

“Well, he’s a beaut, bottling his own blood’s worth, but he eats what he eats and I wouldn’t want to be the one that gets between him and a meal, doc. ‘Bout as vicious as a Great White, that one is.” Then his head cocks to the side, as if he hears something far in the distance. After a moment he turns back to Satya. “What about a three-quarter elliptic leaf spring?”

And with that they lose Jamison and Satya back to their discussion of whatever machinery it is that they have been contemplating on-and-off all morning. It is just as well, as they have a training and strategy meeting that they all need to be at by the top of the hour. Winston seems to realize this as he stands and the others follow suit, disposing of their plates in the sink for later.

As the group strolls through the halls toward the meeting room, everyone talking about one thing or another, Jesse and Hanzo walk close enough for their shoulders and arms to brush occasionally. “So,” Jesse drawls lazily, voice low for Hanzo’s ears only. “You think of anything you’d like to do this evenin’?”

Hanzo hums thoughtfully. “I had thought of taking you up the mountain to the grove Genji showed me for meditating. It is quite beautiful. But I am not sure if you are up for more cold weather.”

“Damn snow,” Jesse complains, again. The phrase was a common theme over the past week, seeing as how he went to Russia, Norway and Greenland and there was snow in all three places. “Pretty to look at, hell on undercover work. But I ain’t worried about a little cold if you want to go check it out. I’m a big boy, I know how to keep warm.”

He does not realize how what he said could be interpreted until Jesse glances over at Hanzo. One of those dark eyebrows arches up as he quirks his head and he cannot physically keep the smirk from spreading on his face. Eyes rake up and down Jesse’s frame, giving him a once-over. “Are you now?”

Jesse nearly flushes at the heated glance and quickly offers, “Or, we could always stay here. I’m sure we could find somethin’ to entertain ourselves in one of our rooms. Just you and me.”

“I am sure we would,” Hanzo says with a smile. “But there will be time for that after. First, I want to talk more about what you mentioned on the phone. We were in the middle of a discussion.”

Now the blush comes up full force but for entirely different reasons. He lowers his voice even more, leaning closer. “I don’t see why you think it’s so damn funny.”

“It is the ultimate irony,” Hanzo gleefully intones. “A cowboy that has never been on a horse in his life. Is afraid of--”

“Would you keep your voice down!” Jesse hisses with the tight desperation of a man with a reputation on the line. “I told you that in confidence!”

“We kept horses at a stable on the outskirts of Hanamura. Genji and I were riding before we were in school. They are wonderful creatures. I do not understand why you are so uncomfortable with the thought--”

“They are huge and unpredictable and they bite! I’ve seen videos, have you seen one kick? Take your damn head clean off!”

“One day I am going to take you horseback riding and you will see you have nothing to fear.”

“Did you say you were going horseback riding?” Lena asks, sticking her head between the two of them and startling Jesse enough for his shoulders to jump. “I haven’t been in ages! Oh, that would be so fun! We could all go!”

“Yes, we could,” Hanzo says pointedly. “Or we would, if Jesse wasn’t--”

“Hey Winston!” Jesse interrupts. “Did you know Hanzo here studied differential geometry at school?”

That smug expression drops to blank shock. Ahead of them Winston turns, curious and surprised. “How exciting! I had no idea you were interested in science!”

“Oh yeah, he’s real interested. Studied black holes and warpin’ time, all that theoretical stuff. You know, I’m surprised you two haven’t talked about that. Seems like it’d be right up your alley.”

“You are a dead man,” Hanzo mutters from the side of his mouth. He shoots Jesse a look that promises swift and painful retribution for this betrayal as Winston falls back to launch into an animated discussion about just what Hanzo has studied and his opinions on whatever off-the-wall concept that Jesse does not understand. Jesse makes a mental note to make it up to the archer later, but Hanzo honestly brought it on himself. You just do not bring up a man’s equinophobia in the presence of company.

Pretty much everyone is already gathered down in the command room when they arrive. Not exactly the best of locations but most of their meetings are informal and the room is big enough for everyone to fit if not find a seat. Winston started having them about a month after the recall as a way for everyone to stay up to speed on their operations, the progress they have made with getting the Petras Act repealed, a summary of the missions they have completed since the last meeting and what to expect in the coming weeks.

And, of course, getting their two newest recruits accustomed to how things are ran in Overwatch. Jamison breaks off from the group the moment he spots Rutledge, standing close and whispering something under his breath that makes the bigger man chuckle low and slow. Then he offers Jamison the seat he had been leaning against. Jesse has not had as much a chance to talk with Rutledge. He is a man of few words, from what Jesse can tell, and reserves most of them for his friend. They still maintain that their relationship is merely one of bodyguard and client, but Jesse can see the little signs of friendship between them. Traveling a barren wasteland together for a few years can endear you to pretty much anybody.

He finds a spot leaning his shoulders against the back wall, well aware that his height and his hat make it difficult for people to see around him, and takes in the room. His eyes immediately seek out Hanzo next to Genji, the two closer to the front and talking softly, Genji’s hands animated as he describes one thing or another. Closeby Zenyatta is leaning into Angela’s space to read something on the electronic clipboard she brought with her. Jesse cannot help but try to read the body language between Genji and Zenyatta. As he has said on many occasion, he got to where he is now by following his hunches and trusting his gut. And his gut says those two are closer than they let on, but damn if he can figure out why they are being so secretive about it.

“Alright, looks like everyone is here, so let’s get started,” Winston says, stepping into the middle of the semi-circle the group naturally formed facing the front. “First things first, I know we’ve all had a chance to meet our new recruits, but let’s formally welcome Jamison Fawkes and Mako Rutledge. We’re glad to have you with us.”

They get a rousing greeting, Lena launching into a little welcoming speech--she always was great at making newcomers feel at ease. Jesse is trying to pay attention but Zarya leans over and nudges him. “Where is Fareeha?” she asks while they both clap.

“Not sure,” he replies, glancing around. The dark haired woman is nowhere to be found. “Ain’t like her to miss a meeting.”

He waits until everyone is engrossed in whatever Winston is talking about next--sounds like Torbjörn is going on about workshop safety, making him wonder what Jamison must have already almost blown up to get this discussion going--to take out his phone. Keeping it close to his chest he shoots off a quick text to Fareeha asking where she is.

The reply comes twenty minutes later, enough time for Jesse to work up just as many scenarios in his head about where Fareeha might be and consider no less than five times if he should slip out and go look for her. A wave of relief passes through him when he feels his phone buzz silently in his hand.

Had to run to town, pulling in now. Be there in a minute.

Odd. He stares at the text a few moments, trying to glean something from the innocent and unrevealing answer. Even for Fareeha this is pretty vague. Something feels off, something he cannot quite put his finger on.

And then Ana Amari walks through the door.

There is a long, painful moment of silence where Jesse would swear the only sound is the beating of his own heart and the collective intake of breath around him. Then a noise of shock comes out of Torbjörn so loud and gut-wrenchingly pure that Angela drops her tablet. Suddenly everyone is talking. Or screaming. Mostly screaming.

“Ana!” Torbjörn cries, rushing over and crushing her tiny frame in a tight hug. Literally cries, the Swede quickly being overcome with emotion. “Ana! We all thought you were dead!?”

Ana laughs softly, hugging him back just as much but gentler. “Well, I had to come back. I was worried you'd get bored not being able to stick your nose in my business.”

Torbjörn half-laughs, half-sobs at hearing his old friend giving him a hard time once again and starts babbling a mile a minute in a mix of his native tongue and English while big fat tears fill his eyes. Angela is there crying, too, completely losing her normal professional composure in favor of wrapping her arms around Ana’s neck. Her own German mixes with Torbjörn’s Swedish and all it would take is Reinhardt joining the fray and it would be a veritable smorgasbord of European gibberish over there.

Speaking of, Jesse seeks out Reinhardt in the sudden crowd around Ana and finds him staying back, much as Jesse is himself. They have both been in contact with her over the years, Jesse knows. Judging by the way Reinhardt is grinning broadly but giving the others a chance to greet her, he has a feeling the larger man already knew she was coming. Fareeha manages to get through the door and goes over to speak with him, and seeing the way they look on the scene fondly confirms as much.

Everyone who knew her practically piles on Ana, Lena hopping like an excited jackrabbit and unable to control her stream of thought.

“Oh my God I can’t believe--but we thought you were--Fareeha was late and--oh, your hair is just so pretty--when did you get here? We should have--I love the white, maybe I should dye mine--where have you been? What are we--are you going to stay? Do you want to sit, we can--we thought you were dead!”

“Lena might be close to explosion,” Zarya says, taken aback by the girl seemingly going into hyperdrive. She doesn’t stop to let Ana answer any of the questions she half-asks, even when the older woman pulls her down into a calming hug and tells her that it is going to be alright, take a moment and breathe.

The other agents, those that have never met Ana Amari or even heard of her, look on with mild confusion at the display. Jesse can hear Mei leaning over to explain to Lúcio, Jamison and Rutledge just who this woman is that walked in and turned the meeting into chaos. Next to them Hana looks in awe of Ana; he vaguely remembers her showing interest in the older woman whenever she was brought up, wanting to know more about her legacy with Overwatch.

From around the tight knot of people Hanzo manages to squeeze free, definitely uncomfortable with the unusual outpouring of emotion from the older agents. He retreats to Jesse’s side and manages a careful smile. “Were you expecting this?”

Jesse shakes his head, grinning at the display and not sure how to voice how happy he is to see her. Despite keeping in contact with letters over the years, he still has not seen Ana in person since before her faked death. Hanzo squeezes Jesse’s arm in a silent expression of his pleasure, letting Jesse know he is happy for him.

“--am sorry for keeping you all in the dark,” Ana is saying as she gives Winston his own hug. The gorilla has kept his composure much better than the others but he still looks a little teary-eyed, plucking the glasses from his face and cleaning them so he has something to focus on. “It wasn’t my intention to be cruel.”

Angela sniffs delicately, wiping at her eyes with a tissue. “It’s alright, we’re just so happy to see you!”

“Are you back for good?” Lena asks, ever hopeful.

“I’ve heard you might be in need of an extra eye,” she says, looking from the others back to Winston. “And I hear you are Commander now. So you have my service for as long as you need, Commander Winston.”

“Oh! Oh, miss Amari, ma’am, please, there is no need for formalities from you,” Winston stutters, embarrassed and pleased all at once. “And of course you are welcome! You are always welcome here!”

“Hey, now, how come Ana gets a happy tearful reunion, huh? I’m sensing some bias here,” Morrison jokes, walking forward.

“Maybe because you always have such a sour face,” she counters with a laugh, the two soldiers hugging like old friends. “Good to see you again. Seems like neither of us like being dead very much.”

“Old soldiers are hard to kill,” he agrees. Then he nods toward the big man waiting patiently for his turn. “Go on, before he breaks something smiling that hard.”

Ana finally turns address her lover. “Reinhardt,” she greets, beaming. “I must say you are looking quite well. This life must agree with you.”

He is there in an instant, big bulk leaning down to take her hand in both of his giant ones. He presses a kiss to her knuckles and intones, “And you are looking as lovely as ever.” They share a kiss then, right in front of everyone, intimate and a little dirty and half the group looks away politely while the others stare a bit in shock. Seems that with age comes not giving a damn about decorum, at least when it comes to reuniting with your lover. Jesse has to stifle a laugh at the look of vague disgust that passes over Fareeha’s features, the look of a woman who really, really does not want to see her mother doing anything remotely like that ever. Reinhardt’s smile when they part is much more subdued and private than Jesse is used to seeing on his face. “Sweet, sweet Ana, you are radiant.”

She chuckles, cupping his face with her free hand for just a moment before patting him back. “There will be time for that later, dear. I want to see everyone. Oh!” She turns in the group, eyes scanning the gathered agents. “And just where is my other boyfriend?!”

“You talkin’ about me?” Jesse asks, tipping his hat back and grinning broadly when she finally sets sights on him. “Or have you been runnin’ around on me with some of these younger fellas?”

Ana hums, smirking. “From what I hear you’re the one running around on me, Jesse McCree.”

He laughs, deep and rich, glancing at Hanzo before putting a palm to his chest. “You know you’ll always be number one in my heart.”

They meet in the middle, Jesse holding his arms wide before scooping her up into an all-encompassing embrace. He lifts the petite woman off the floor completely, swinging her legs back and forth as he squeezes her tight. A delighted laugh peels out of her and it is so good to hear, like a long-beloved memory worn soft at the edges. Jesse chuckles along with Ana before setting her back on her feet. They kiss each other’s cheeks before she flicks her fingers against the brim of his hat and almost sends it falling to the floor. “You always were a charmer.”

“I think it’s in everyone’s best interest if we postpone this meeting until tomorrow,” Winston says over the babbling of the group. “I don’t know about the rest of you but I won’t be able to concentrate on much. Ana, we’ll be happy to set you up with a room--”

“No need for that,” Ana assures, looking warmly at Reinhardt. “I have arrangements already made.”

“Mom, please,” Fareeha begs, covering her face with one hand.

Reinhardt laughs again, patting Fareeha on the back soothingly. He is well aware that he is not the subtlest of men, especially in his courtship of Fareeha’s mother. “Ana, I will take your things to our rooms. You have a lot of catching up to do. You remember where they are, yes?”

“I could never forget,” she says playfully. It just makes her daughter give a strangled groan and she follows Reinhardt out the door, determined to ignore the situation in favor of helping Reinhardt with her bags.

Introductions after that are long and drawn out, everyone wanting to meet the great Ana Amari. Everyone, that is, but Hanzo. He seems to shy back where the others surge forward, and Jesse notices it immediately. “You said she is like your mother,” he whispers up to Jesse when the taller man asks what is wrong. When that is met with a blank look, Hanzo elaborates, “I have never, ah, met with the--the family of someone I have seen. Romantically.”

“You’ve never done the meet-the-parents thing?” Jesse asks, smirking. “That is just too cute.”

“Shut up,” Hanzo hisses, almost trying to hide behind Jesse’s shoulder. He does not get far, Jesse’s arm twisting around behind Hanzo’s back to draw him forward so they stand side-by-side.

“It ain’t that big a deal. She don’t bite.”

“She is important to you. I didn’t think I would meet her, or at least not so soon.”

“Me neither, but there’s nothin’ to worry about.”

“She knows about Genji,” he adds, nerves adding a slight waver to his voice. “What I did. She will not want to meet me. She will certainly not approve of us--”

“She’s goin’ to love you, sugar,” he counters, not willing to hear that argument.

Hanzo presses back against the arm restraining him, and Jesse thinks he is about half a minute from pulling one of his fancy martial arts moves and disappearing into the shadows to get out of this social situation. “You do not know that--”

“Ah, and you must be the archer.”

Hanzo freezes as suddenly she is right before them, assessing the two of them posed in an awkward attempt at hiding their grapple. They were a bit busy and Jesse missed when some of the others left. At least all of Overwatch is not watching to make Hanzo feel even more nervous. Taking the initiative, Jesse squeezes Hanzo’s shoulder and turns this into a proper introduction. “Ana, allow me to introduce Hanzo Shimada. Hanzo, this is Captain Ana Amari. Though I don’t know if she goes by that title anymore--”

“Ana is fine, dear,” she says, shrugging Jesse off and regarding Hanzo. A few inches shorter than Hanzo, she peers up at him with an assessing expression. Only now does Jesse feel a twist of nervousness himself; Hanzo may have never met a lover’s parents, but Jesse has never had a lover meet what he would consider his own. And it suddenly occurs to Jesse that Ana’s opinion means a great deal to him.

Hanzo’s posture straightens just so and he bows formally, making her eyebrows quirk upward curiously. “Captain Amari--Ana. I am honored to meet you. In his stories, Jesse has expressed nothing but respect and fondness for you.”

Her smile turns more genuine. Approval. “Funny, he has said the same about you,” she says.

Jesse’s heart leaps a little as Hanzo’s head swivels to look up at him. “Ah, well, you know how I run my mouth,” he says, feeling his face heat.

“Some things do not change,” she giggles. Stepping closer she shakes Hanzo’s hand. “Later we will have to practice together. He tells me you are quite the shot with a bow.”

“Best aim out of a hundred yards since you, ma’am--”

“Jesse,” Hanzo chastises, shushing him.

“What? Can’t a man be proud of his boyfrie--ow!” Jesse rubs his arm where Hanzo pinches him in warning.

Ana sighs, patting Hanzo’s hand in sympathy. “You will need to get used to being embarrassed by him. Best to just ignore it.” She promptly ignores Jesse’s indignant squawk at the remark. Raking her eyes over Hanzo once more, she then looks up at Jesse and adds, “You were right. Quite the looker.”

It is a good thing at that point that she moves on to Zarya then, because both men turn bright red. This is something Jesse should have anticipated; Ana Amari has no shame, never has and never will, and is perfectly happy to take Jesse down with her. He tugs his hat low over his face to avoid the incredulous stare he gets from his boyfriend. “Sorry,” he mutters, looking anywhere other than Hanzo.

“I changed my mind about going to the grove this evening,” Hanzo says cutting him off.

Hell, he fucked up now. Why did he have to open his big mouth? “Aw, darlin’, I didn’t mean anything by it. I might’ve said some things, but it was nothin’ but compliments, I swear--”

“I am sure you will want to visit with Ana, and I have some mission reports I have fallen behind on,” he says as if Jesse has not spoken. Hanzo waits until Jesse risks peaking out from beneath his hat before leaning closer to murmur just for Jesse’s ears. “Your suggestion that we have a night in sounds much more appealing.”

Jesse is not a stupid man. It takes just a second for him to catch Hanzo’s meeting. “Hot damn,” he replies, pleased grin back on his face. Hanzo looks away, struggling with his own smile, and Jesse thinks the night cannot come fast enough.

---

Reinhardt’s rooms are just around the corner from his own. He waits a while to drop by, well aware that moving day can be a tiring process even for seasoned veterans like Overwatch agents. When he decides enough time has passed Jesse knocks politely and greets Ana with his hat in his hands. “Howdy,” he says, smiling. “You up for guests?”

“You are hardly a guest,” she says, waving him in. Jesse takes in the changes to the room with mild amusement. Reinhardt has always been fairly minimal with his decor, preferring to keep things simple and clean with the only personal effects being framed photos and a few trinkets from his travels. It is easy to see the difference after an afternoon in Ana Amari’s presence--colorful scarves tossed over some of the furniture, a bright quilt over the bedspread, the sill lined with no less than ten new potted plants all vying for the sunlight streaming in the window. Dried flowers and a bottle of scented lotion on the table by the bed. Sniper rifle propped against the sitting chair, now adorned with a purple and orange paisley decorative pillow.

“See you’re makin’ yourself at home,” he teases, reaching out to tap the fuzzy afghan folded on the back of the second chair. This one in aqua and white. “Where’s the big guy?”

“Down in the workshop with Torbjörn. He has a lot of apologizing to do for keeping me a secret all these years. As do I.” She motions for him to take the seat while she sits opposite. “I have a feeling Reinhardt will be buying the drinks for quite a while. Now, sit up, let me look at you.”

Jesse dutifully sits up, placing his hat down next to the table on the floor. “I washed my face this mornin’, if that’s what you’re looking for.”

“I would hope you did,” she grins, reaching out to hold his face between her cool palms. He patiently tolerates the scrutiny, trying to keep his expression calm and bland, a weird guilty feeling welling up inside though he has done nothing wrong. Jesse notices that her hands are still strong and capable despite their more angular appearance, the knuckles more pronounced than he remembers. “Look at that beard. So scruffy!” One of her thumbs runs along the faint line of a scar, nearly healed over the top of his eyebrow. She looks him over, affection and concern etched across her face. “My little charmer is still under there. He’s had a rough time these last few years but his laugh lines are growing.”

“I did alright, Ana,” he says, pulling back. She lets him go with a resigned sigh.

“Yes, I know. But I wish it had been easier on you.” Quick as a flash she grabs Jesse’s prosthetic and pulls his arm over, investigating this new addition. He tries to pull it back but Ana holds firm. “Where did you have this done?” she asks.

At least that is easy enough to answer. “Mexico City. There’s a girl down there that used to be in Los Muertos that did all their prosthetics. You remember when Overwatch was involved in that outreach program in Dorado?” When she nods he continues, “She was one of the ones that got out. Set up shop in Mexico City and is doin’ pretty well for herself.”

“That explains the skull,” Ana says, running a fingertip over the stylized teeth.

“Hey, I like the skull.”

She rotates his arm over to view the metal plates that make up his inner forearm. “Well, at least one good thing came from it.” She taps the spot in the center, and they both smile.

“That is one way to remove a tattoo,” he allows. Then he barks a laugh. “You are morbid.”

“We always had the same sense of humor,” Ana replies, smirking.

Jesse looks down at his arm and huffs another small laugh, shaking his head. “I had nearly forgotten.” Right where Ana’s fingers lay used to be another skull, black ink stained permanently into his skin. The crest of the Deadlock Gang, a winged skull clutching a chain and lock in its teeth, the Deadlock Rebels. Something he got when he was fourteen. How proud he had been back then. How dumb. “Like I said. This skull is way better.”

“Are you going to tell me how you lost it?” she asks. “Not doing something foolish, surely.”

He does tug his arm free now, tucking it safely beneath the bright red of his serape. “Got bit off by a dragon. You know how it goes.” Ignoring her glare, he nods toward her eyepatch. “The eyepatch is a nice touch. Very badass. Got a bit of a pirate feel. Have you considered a peg leg to go along with it?”

“Charming but stubborn,” she says flatly. “Fine, you don’t want to tell me? Don’t tell me. I can be patient.”

“Snipers,” he complains jokingly, rolling his eyes.

“Speaking of...” And here Ana’s smirk comes back full force. Jesse knows exactly what she is going to say before she says it. He walked right into this one. “Hanzo. He is quite the little dish, isn’t he?”

Jesse laughs, only mildly embarrassed. It is not like Ana was quiet about who she found attractive around base. Or on missions. Or television. Anytime, really. “Yeah, he is a handsome fella.”

“Those arms,” she adds. “Looks awfully strong. I can see the attraction.”

“Ana, I swear, if you start comparin’ him to Reinhardt I’m goin’ to make you eat your eyepatch. We all know about your strong-man fetish--”

“You are not too old for me to bend you over my knee, McCree,” she warns, reaching over to smack his leg. He laughs, swatting back. “I was surprised to hear about him. You always kept things casual with your interests. Finally feeling your age?”

“Ain’t never met someone like him.” The words lose some of their humor, sincere.

“Tell me about him."

Jesse knew she would ask about Hanzo but now that he is here he is not sure where to start. He supposes at the beginning. “Well, we met when Genji brought him on board.”

“That’s right; he must have done a lot to earn his forgiveness, and yours. I was surprised to hear he was even allowed to live, and now--” Ana gestures to Jesse, effectively proving her point. “How did that happen? Are they getting along well now?”

“Genji sought him out. Turns out Hanzo’s been trying to find atonement all this time, fighting back against his old clan. It’s been an uphill battle, but they’re getting there,” Jesse says, wondering how to be diplomatic about this. “I think if anyone had a right to hold onto his anger it was Genji, and he’s letting it go. There was more to the whole story than we ever knew. And Hanzo is...he’s not what we thought.”

“Obviously.”

“I’m not sure what to say. Just hearing the basic facts it was a hard pill to swallow, but getting to know him, getting to know them together, things aren’t black and white. For all that Genji has forgiven him, I don’t know if Hanzo will ever forgive himself for what he did. What he was forced to do. Stupid, confused decisions. He’s healing. Slowly.” He glances up at Ana. “I don’t want you to hold it against him.”

Ana she takes a deep breath as if to gather her thoughts. “It is not my place to judge. But I am worried about you getting hurt.”

“I ain’t,” he replies. For the most part. Not about this. “He’s a good man. Once you get to know him you’ll see it, too.”

“I suppose I have to trust you to make your own decisions on this. But if he messes up just once--”

“You’ll have Reinhardt grind him to paste.”

She scoffs, crossing her legs and leaning back to relax. “Please. I would take care of him personally. Now, enough of that. Tell me how this came to be? You and him?”

Jesse smiles without input from his brain, unable to stop. “He’s amazing, Ana.” From there, he cannot seem to stop himself. He tells her about meeting the archer and his own horrible first impression, the hamfisted words he beat himself up over after the fact. How as hard as Hanzo tried to push him away, as much as they bickered, they kept finding each other. How they somehow found a common language along the way and the arguments vanished, replaced by a fierce friendship, and then more. How Hanzo is quiet around the others but is getting bolder, more comfortable. How Hanzo is a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield, a sight to behold and more capable than most of the soldiers he has ever fought beside. How he sasses Jesse back on the comms. How he makes missions fun again. How smart Hanzo is, quick as a whip and sharp as a tack, and so funny that he has Jesse crying with laughter. That he gives as good as he gets, keeps Jesse on his toes and pushes him to be better. He tells her about how when Hanzo enters a room Jesse cannot help but seek him out, like a flower following the light of the sun. He tells her about sharpshooting competitions, and origami, and a beautiful day walking in Nanning. He tells her about the movies.

The whole while Ana listens and watches him with a keen eye, smiling at the way he describes with his hands and smiles with his whole face. Jesse knows he is rambling but he wants her to know, wants her to understand how fully captivated he is with this man that intrigues him even when he is at his most difficult. Who makes things seem a little more bearable just for being there.

“I never thought I’d see the day,” Ana says when he winds down, the sun slanting longer against the wall.

“What?”

“Little Jesse McCree in love.” She giggles at the bashful grin that brings forth. “You don’t even try to deny it.”

“Little early to be makin’ such broad claims. We haven’t exactly got that far.”

She shakes her head. “How long you’ve known each other, some timeframe, it means nothing. But I can tell. It was plain as day the moment I saw you together.”

“Oh yeah? How you figure that?” he asks.

“Because you look at him the way Reinhardt looks at me.”

Jesse’s face turns hot and he laughs, looking away. “Nobody looks at anyone the way Reinhardt looks at you.”

Ana says nothing to that, the quiet superiority of someone who knows she is right and is just biding her time until you figure it out. Instead she reaches over and squeezes his knee. “I am happy for you.”

“Thanks, Ana,” he replies. He is pretty happy for himself, too.

Her smile fades slightly and her eyes dart to one of her unpacked satchels. “As much as I hate to change the subject...” she trails off, reaching into the pocket of her loose linen pants. She pulls out a familiar folded sheet of paper worn ragged on one side. It is carefully unfolded then pressed flat against her thigh. “I thought it best we discuss your letter in person.”

He had wondered how long to wait before bringing it up. “Is that why you came back?”

“Partially. Reinhardt’s tales about the new Overwatch gave me hope that things might be better this time around. And Fareeha is here, and…” She pets her fingers down over his words written in ink. “I left so I could be with my family more. My family is here now. I cannot protect them in retirement.”

Standing, she goes to the satchel and pulls out a silk-wrapped bundle. “It’s crazy, I know,” Jesse says as she returns to her seat. From within she pulls out the pack of cigarettes and the Virgin Mary statuette and sets them on the table. “It just seemed too much of a coincidence, findin’ those with the shotgun in that place, everythin’ feeling like a Blackwatch cover-up. Believe me, I know that what I’m suggestin’ is farfetched--”

The words die in his throat as Ana pulls another Virgin Mary from her bag, nearly identical to the first but for some stylistic changes. She places it carefully next to the first, then takes a final object from the bundle that she hands over to him. “Not as farfetched as you think.”

It appears to be a chunk of rock but is actually a broken-off piece of drywall like he has seen in any number of buildings damaged in battle. He is momentarily confused, at least until he rotates the piece around to the painted side. There, sketched onto a layer of eggshell paint, is a drawing of a barn owl. It is done with black ink, too thick to be a pen. Must be permanent marker. On the one hand it looks quite haphazard, simply a sketch with dashed circles and lines used to make suggestions of shape rather than a hard outline. On the other hand there is a lot of care in the design with small areas in sharp detail. The creases in the talons. The pinion feathers. The dark colored-in eyes with little highlights in the black depths. Whoever made these marks has experience with art, understands proportion and the anatomy of the subject, the suggestion of highlight and shadow in the cross-hatching.

The hand is achingly familiar.

“This is Gabe’s,” he says, voice quiet and rough in awe at what he is holding. There is no denying it. Jesse has seen a thousand of these, doodled into the corners of memos, in the margins of his meeting notes, once spray-painted on a brick wall in a back alley in Fort Lauderdale on a particularly monotonous mission.

“I found that in an abandoned apartment in Cairo,” Ana explains, watching Jesse gaze at the broken piece. “There was a whole room of them. I figure he had been living there for a few weeks.”

“Why?”

She shakes her head. “I’m not sure. There was a Talon cell in the city that cleared out recently. He must have been connected to that.”

“This is Gabe’s,” he says again. It bears repeating. His eyes flick from the drawing to the other items collected on the table and back again. The other things may be explained away but not this. Not this. “He’s alive.”

“He is Reaper. I’m not sure if that counts as alive,” Ana says, joyless. “We will need to tell Winston.”

Jesse sets the hunk of drywall carefully on the table lest it crumble, then sits back against the chair with a hard sigh that bursts from his lungs. He wishes having confirmation felt better than this. “Shit,” he says, rubbing at his eyes. “Shit, shit, shit.”

“He needs to know, and probably everyone else but certainly Winston. He is the Commander now. He has to know what fight we’re up against.”

“I know. Fuck.” Jesse drops his hand to his throat and looks over the evidence. “We have to figure out what happened to him. What turned him into--whatever this is. What made him do the things he did.” He swallows, fidgeting with the fabric of his serape, pulling it higher. “How we can fix this.”

“Jesse,” she says gently, frown growing. “This might not be something we can fix.”

“I know,” he repeats. That does not mean he has to agree with it. “I know, and I get it. But I need--I have to understand why.”

Ana looks hard at Jesse. He knows she is trying to figure out all the things he will not say. All the things he has refused to say for years now. He wishes he was a better man and could just speak up. Wishes he was better family to her. “We will talk to him tomorrow,” she says, like she has come to a decision. Sweeping the items back into the silk, she wraps them quick and careful out of sight. “We will figure it out.”

“This could take months. Years,” he warns. “You don’t have to do this. You did your service.”

“As long as Reaper is a problem--as long as Gabriel is a problem, we will do our best to stop him. I don’t know what happened to him but stopping him now is our responsibility. You’ll have me at your back.”

The side of his mouth lifts, grateful. “You don’t know how glad I am to hear it.”

“I will feel better knowing I can watch out for you,” she replies, reaching out and taking his hand. In that moment he is suddenly reminded of Hanzo at the window in Nanning, the words he said while watching the thick sheets of rain fall in the dark, bow at the ready. It will put me at ease. Snipers, indeed.

Jesse squeezes her hand, ever grateful of the twists and turns in his life that brought him to be under Ana Amari’s watchful eye. He opens his mouth to say so, thank her again--he can never thank her enough--when the door opens and Reinhardt’s bulk fills the entryway. He has a cardboard box full of random objects under one arm. He takes a look at the two and laughs. “Hello! And what is this? Inviting strange men into our rooms already, love?”

“Strange! At least I don’t have to turn sideways to get into my room…” Jesse complains, making the other man laugh.

She squeezes Jesse’s hand again before standing and going over to help Reinhardt with the box. “You know that Jesse has all the best lines. What’s all this?”

“Ah,” he sighs, helping her place it on the trunk at the foot of the bed. Inside Jesse can spot a few bottles of stout, a half-finished gauntlet, a couple magazines, and is that a dart board? “In light of your return Torbjörn has decided to do some spring cleaning. I think he is still mad.”

“I’m sorry, dear. I’m sure he just needs a few days. Give him time.”

“Oh, I know. In the meantime he very much wants to show you the workshop and everything he has been working on. Try to act interested so he will lighten up?”

“I always act interested!” she protests. It is a lie and all three of them know it, but she must keep up appearances.

“My love, as wonderful as you are, you do not handle boredom well,” he replies.

“Reinhardt!”

As they bicker playfully Jesse watches from his seat in the chair, feeling clearly forgotten but hardly minding. They are both so obviously in love and so happy to be reunited. The sort of comfortable love that wraps around you like a warm blanket and smells of home. Jesse watches the way Reinhardt looks at Ana adoringly, how he smiles at her, and thinks of what Ana said. Jesse might not be ready to say the words to Hanzo in person, but she certainly has a point.

---

They stay later at dinner than Hanzo initially plans and he is not at all surprised. Ana’s presence on the base has everyone putting previous arrangements on hold so they can all dine together, and the evening is filled with stories of the Overwatch of old. The table is brimming with good food, better stories, and excellent alcohol. Hanzo finds himself laughing often as Ana tells tale after tale of her, Morrison, Reinhardt, and Torbjörn’s wild younger days, of missions gone askew and wagers they would make while bored between missions. But even better are the stories of Jesse and Genji, still young and belligerent and causing trouble wherever they went. Jesse tends to take over the storytelling citing Ana’s penchant for leaving out the important details; Hanzo is pretty sure she is doing it on purpose just to get him riled up. Genji chimes in with his own perspective, usually wildly exaggerated, but sometimes with the way he and Jesse share a look Hanzo is not quite so sure. He soaks up he memories like a sponge, tears in the corners of his eyes from mirth, and shivering occasionally at Jesse’s arm across the back of his chair.

Hanzo might be a little tipsy by the time he forces himself to his feet. Jesse is no better, though he might have stayed at the table talking until dawn if Hanzo had not leaned over and whispered that he was turning in for the night. He makes sure to speak low and sultry, close enough for his lips to brush the shell of Jesse’s ear. Hanzo does not even get straightened completely before Jesse is pushing his chair out and excusing himself for the evening.

They fool no one, of course. The giggles that follow them from the room prove it. That is fine. Hanzo feels too good to care what they think.

They are kissing before they get Hanzo’s door open.

“Jesse,” he moans as his head tips back against the metal door. “The least you can do is take off your hat.”

“Haven’t got time for that,” Jesse replies, nosing lower. He is doing a fine job familiarizing himself with the soft skin below the archer’s Adam’s apple with his open mouth. Which would be great if Hanzo did not have the brim of the leather cowboy hat jabbing him in the face. He sweeps it off and tugs on Jesse’s hair at a particularly sharp nip.

“Do not--ahh--if you leave a hickey there, I swear--”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, darlin’,” he laughs against Hanzo’s throat.

“Liar,” Hanzo grins up at the ceiling before his eyes slip closed. There are amazing things being done with Jesse’s tongue and it is hard to concentrate on anything else.

Jesse presses closer, one thigh sliding between Hanzo’s in a way that has him clutching at Jesse’s broad shoulders and gasping. “God, you’re gorgeous.”

Hanzo is not drunk enough to do this in the hallway. He pushes at Jesse until the cowboy moves back. “Get off. We are not doing this against the door.”

When he turns around to key in the code Jesse plasters himself against his back, which makes the whole process a lot more difficult. Especially when one of Jesse’s arms wrap around Hanzo’s torso and grab a handful of pectoral. “What are your feelings about the other side of the door?”

“I feel we would be more comfortable on the bed.” The moment the door is open Hanzo grabs Jesse and practically slings him inside, pushing him toward the furniture in question and locking the door behind him. Once it is secure he stalks after Jesse. “We can save the door for next time.”

They collide with more force than they intend and Jesse laughs out a grunt but rolls with it, the two falling back onto the bed. Hanzo is feeling giggly himself as they try to shuffle up onto the bed properly without letting go of each other. It means Hanzo does a weird crab walk backwards but Jesse’s vision is too close and occupied for him to notice, and soon enough they are pressed as close as they possibly can while still wearing clothes.

Hanzo groans loud in his own ears as Jesse kisses him hard and deep. It feels like being devoured. Jesse seems content to make a meal of his mouth but Hanzo has other things on his mind. He has been remembering that night in Nanning vividly for over a week now and he thinks it only fair that he finally get his hands all over the American’s big, broad body. The only thing that could make Jesse holding him down against the sheets better is if there were a lot less layers between them.

Laying as they are Hanzo cannot properly reach the buttons of Jesse’s shirt. No matter. He first pulls the bottom of the flannel shirt out from Jesse’s waistband and slips his hands beneath, feeling the soft warm skin of his lower back. His fingers follow the valley of his spine before dipping underneath the leather and denim. Jesse seems to like that, his own hands beginning a wandering path of their own. Emboldened, Hanzo slides a hand up Jesse’s clothed chest with the intention of getting rid of the pesky shirt. Feeling those strong muscles, all the hair Hanzo has imagined covering Jesse’s chest pressed up against his own--those thoughts are what keep him from picking up on the way Jesse goes still over him. His own eyes are closed so he does not see the way Jesse’s snap open. Far too late and distracted to read the signs, his hand pushes up and tugs sharply to remove the serape.

The bed jolts violently as Jesse rips free from Hanzo’s hold. An almost animalistic sound bursts from deep within and he scrambles backward so quickly and without direction that he falls right off the bed. The sudden lack of bulk over him leaves Hanzo cold and he has a burst of adrenaline at the noise, bolting upright. “Jesse? Jesse, what--”

The words die in his throat. Because something is very wrong.

Jesse has backed himself into the corner of the room, the dresser at his back, body pressed as hard as he can against the unyielding surface as if he can make himself any smaller. His eyes are so incredibly wide with panic that Hanzo can clearly see the whites all the way around. They dart about the room but see nothing, or see something that is not there, Hanzo cannot tell which. Jesse has one hand clutching the serape--no, his throat, he is grasping his throat with his hand, like he is protecting himself. The other hand grabbed the first thing he encountered, in this case the small metal box where Hanzo stores his spare arrowheads. Jesse has it raised and cocked as if to strike the first thing that comes in range. The arrowheads inside clatter with how hard his arm is shaking. But most importantly Jesse is sucking in air so hard and so fast that it whistles in his esophagus and out his gritted teeth.

“Jesse?” Hanzo quickly rolls up onto his knees and puts one foot then the other down on the floor. It is a struggle to keep his voice calm; this is not a situation he anticipated in the slightest and he has no idea where this is coming from, and he has to will himself not to panic. It will do Jesse no good. He kneels down so he is on eye level with the other man. “Jesse? Jesse, look at me. Can you see me?”

He does not react well, slinging out with the box and using one still-booted foot to kick wildly, the other pushing him harder against the dresser. He comes nowhere close to hitting Hanzo but it is enough for him to know contact right now would be ill-advised. Even from this distance Hanzo can see that Jesse’s eyes are so dilated that there is hardly any brown to the irises at all, and tears are starting to gather at the edges from the air drying them out. There is no way he is seeing Hanzo right now. And his hyperventilating is getting worse.

If he cannot get through to Jesse, Hanzo is going to have to call for Doctor Ziegler. Part of him wonders if Athena has already taken the liberty.

“Jesse,” he states, loud enough that it might penetrate the haze but still as calm as he can be under these circumstances. “McCree, listen to me. You are safe. We are in the base, at Gibraltar. We are in my room. You are in Hanzo’s rooms, and you are safe.” He gets a response then as Jesse’s eyes seem to register his presence. “Yes, Jesse, I am here. You remember me, yes? Hanzo Shimada. We are agents together, in Overwatch. You are in my room and you are safe.”

Hanzo keeps repeating those points and the few other facts he can drum up, the time and the year, the names of the other agents, where he is and who he is with. Most importantly that Jesse is safe from whatever phantoms he is seeing.

Finally, after long frightening minutes, Jesse’s breathing begins to slow. Hanzo can see when Jesse seems to come back to himself, how he blinks rapidly and a sudden furrow of confusion forms in his brow as he tries to figure out how he came to be on the floor. “Hanzo?” he croaks before swallowing several times. With the way he was breathing his throat must be dried out.

“It is me,” Hanzo says, softer. “Are you with me?”

Jesse gives a hesitant nod, still trying to process. His arm lowers, slowly, and the makeshift weapon finds a home on the floor next to his hip. Within easy reach. Hanzo shifts on the balls of his feet.

“Is it okay to touch you?”

He startles at the suggestion, barely noticeable but there. “Give me a minute.” Jesse sluggishly pulls his legs inward until his knees are bent up against his chest, hands clutching the tops of his shins. A protective gesture. “What happened?”

Not seeing a point in sugar-coating this, Hanzo replies, “You had a panic attack, I believe.” To be honest, Hanzo is not sure what it was. But it seemed close enough to his own for it to be true. The semantics he can worry about later. Either way, Jesse does not look surprised by the answer. Which just ratchets up Hanzo’s worries all the more.

“Oh.” Jesse swallows again, the intense gaze leaving Hanzo’s face to look down at the middle distance. “Great.” Then his head drops so he can bury it against his knees, hiding his face from Hanzo’s view.

At a loss, Hanzo glances at the door. The worst is over; no emergency worth running for Angela now. But Hanzo feels completely inadequate for this. He tries to think of what he would need in this situation. “Will you be alright if I get you a glass of water?” he asks. Jesse nods against his knees. “I am just going right over there. Stay here.”

Rising to his feet Hanzo makes quick work of finding one of his spare mugs and rinsing it in the sink. When he returns he kneels a bit closer than before, holding the mug in both hands and anticipating that Jesse might have trouble holding it at first. The other man has hardly moved an inch. “Can you sit up for me?”

Jesse sucks in a quick breath and does so, doing a valiant effort of looking more put together. Even as red burns his ears and colors all the way down to meet the fabric of his serape. “Sorry, partner,” he says, reaching out to take the mug with hands that tremble. Partner. Careful. Casual. Distant. “Don’t know what came over me.”

“It is alright,” he says. It feels empty and hollow despite how sincere the words are. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“No.”

He manages to get most of the cool tap water down under Hanzo’s concerned gaze. When Jesse finishes he hands the cup back and Hanzo puts it aside. Not sure what else to do, Hanzo shifts down to sit close to Jesse, careful not to breach the space between them. “I am sorry,” he finally says.

“You didn’t do anythin’ wrong,” Jesse replies, not meeting his eyes.

“That does not mean I cannot be sorry for it.”

The gunslinger huffs, shaking his head, looking off to the side. He could not be more obvious in his avoidance if he tried. “I’m the one that’s sorry. Freakin’ out like that, over nothin’ important.”

“It is not unimportant if--”

“Probably should just get out of your hair tonight, that--that was weird, and it’s late. Kind of a mood killer, and all. And you shouldn’t need to worry about me--”

“McCree.” The reprimand has Jesse’s mouth snapping shut and the muscles of his jaw flexing with the effort to shut up. He stares hard at the door like he might seriously make a break for it, consequences be damned. This just will not do. Hanzo softens his tone. “I may not know what caused this or why you will not tell me, but do not act like--like I am not familiar with the feeling. Like I do not understand.” Jesse glances over at him and Hanzo dips his head so they can better hold eye contact. “You did not run from me when I was hurting. What makes you think I will run from you?”

“That ain’t the same thing.”

“Why?”

Jesse opens his mouth to retort but comes up with nothing. “It just ain’t, okay?”

Hanzo shakes his head, smiling slightly. “You are as stubborn as a mule, you know that?”

The other man does not smile but his lips twitch like he had to fight the urge. It marks a shift in the atmosphere of the room, the tension bleeding out from between them. “I’m sorry, about...all that.”

“You owe me no apologies, Jesse.” Hanzo leans forward an inch or two, then holds out a hand palm up for Jesse to take if he wishes. “I will understand if you wish to be alone, but I would very much like for you to stay.”

This time Jesse does not hesitate to make contact. His fingers feel cool to the couch and Hanzo quickly tugs them forward enough so that he can blow warm air against the icy knuckles. “Yeah,” he says, rough. “Yeah, okay, let me just, uh. Freshen up.”

“Okay.”

Hanzo helps Jesse to his feet and reluctantly gives him privacy in the bathroom. While he is occupied Hanzo turns down the blankets on the bed and switches the lights from the overhead to the bedside lamp. He is not really sure if Jesse was agreeing to stay for the night or just to talk, but he wants the cowboy to feel comfortable either way. The past ten minutes did a good job of sobering Hanzo up. Now he just feels tired. Tugging the ribbon from the back of his head he folds it carefully then shakes out his hair.

When Jesse emerges from the bathroom he has his serape re-wrapped around his shoulders and his eyes are clear. Water drips from his beard where he splashed water on his face. He lingers there in the doorway between the two rooms, uncertain, so Hanzo smiles. “Care to join me?” He pats the bed next to him to illustrate his point.

“You sure?” Jesse asks, hand on the doorframe.

Hanzo rolls his eyes. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

He finally gets a smile from Jesse, small but there. As he approaches Hanzo pulls one leg up onto the bed so he can face Jesse better, and as soon as he sits Hanzo takes his hand again. Jesse watches their hands as Hanzo twines their fingers together. “Thanks. That was...”

“I will not make you talk about it,” Hanzo says, bringing his other hand up to stroke gently up and down Jesse’s back. He is careful not to go too high, though. “But I would like to know what I did to cause such a reaction so I can avoid it next time.”

“Next time?”

“The next time I try to get you in my bed,” he elaborates, smirking.

“You don’t have to try, sug,” Jesse replies without skipping a beat. It knocks a short-lived laugh from both of them. “I--I don’t--” He presses his lips together, trying to find the right words. Or maybe the courage. “So, right, uh, I had somethin’ happen, to me, and uh. And now I don’t like when people touch my neck. Or, or look at it. Just. I don’t like it and it makes me…” Jesse holds his hand up over his throat with his fingers spread in a grasping motion.

“Does this happen often?” Hanzo asks. He is having trouble imagining it. Still can hardly understand what he just witnessed. Jesse is so relaxed, seems so at ease in his own skin. Or at least that is what Hanzo assumed.

“It’s been a good long while now,” Jesse admits, casting his gaze aside. “I’m usually pretty good at keepin’ people’s hands away.”

“You knocked Ana’s hand away at dinner,” Hanzo blurts.

It had been just hours ago, while they were all getting seated. Ana had made a joke about Jesse’s serape, how he used to wear bandanas all the time and now he has upgraded to these silly blankets. She had reached across the table to tug at it playfully like she had a thousand times in the past but Jesse’s hand reacted like a coiled viper. Her wrist looked tiny and fragile in his tight grip and Jesse dropped it immediately, mumbling an apology then retreating to the kitchen to help bring out the platters of food. Ana had been too stunned to react at all. By the time they were seated again both had tactfully decided to move on.

But Hanzo had seen.

It was just one of the many things he has seen and dismissed, he now realizes. It was there in all the times Jesse kept his shirt buttoned all the way to the top in even the most casual of locations, or when he wore a bandana or a serape no matter how hot it might be. How he would make excuses to avoid taking them off and expertly deflect the attention to something else. And sometimes he would tense up when others leaned over him to look at something on a tablet or computer screen, or shy away from Hanzo’s hands on his shoulders for something as innocent as a hug. The canvas serape he wore while painting makes a lot more sense in light of this new information. How often has Jesse hidden this traumatic experience behind humor and claiming it as his aesthetic? How blind are they all not to notice he has been hurting?

Hanzo winces, feeling foolish. “I am sorry, Jesse. I should have realized.”

“What? That I’m messed up in the head?” Jesse asks, and the fact that he says it with no malice at all, like he really believes that, makes it all the more unbearable. “Don’t worry yourself about it. It ain’t your cross to bear.”

“Stop. You are not--do not ever say that about yourself. Ever.” Hanzo risks moving his hand from Jesse’s back to up in his hair, carefully avoiding the back of his neck. “Please, Jesse. This is not a burden you have to carry alone.”

“You don’t even know--”

“And I do not need to.” He cards his fingers through Jesse’s bangs, pushing the hair out of his face. “We are adults. Whatever happens, we will figure it out. I just want to be with you.”

Jesse smiles at his own words thrown back at him and closes his eyes, leaning into Hanzo’s embrace. He is only happy to draw the other man in close and they hold each other for a while with Jesse’s face pressed into Hanzo’s shoulder. Hanzo rests his chin on Jesse’s and rubs gently at his back again. “It ain’t fair to you,” Jesse says, settling his own arms around Hanzo’s waist. “I can’t even be...intimate with you without having a some sort of...of...episode.”

The grin is hardly his fault. Jesse trying to self-censor always makes him laugh. “Intimate?”

“It’s a word.”

Hanzo thinks Jesse’s laughter is a mixture of relief and pent-up nerves, and it is definitely an improvement so he pushes for more. “Next you will be talking about how our courtship is going.”

“I’m tryin’ to be polite about it.”

“I would love to hear how you plan to woo me next.”

“Hanzo!” Jesse snickers against Hanzo’s neck and squeezes him tight. “I’m goin’ to remember this. Mockin’ me in my hour of need.”

Turning his head he catches Jesse’s mouth in a soft kiss. One that he thinks they are both grateful for. He cups Jesse’s cheek with one hand so he cannot get away once the kiss ends. “You could have just told me.”

“I didn’t know how,” he admits, resting his forehead against Hanzo’s. “Been beatin’ myself up over what to do about it. It’s not like I haven’t been trying, but I thought, you know. When the time came I could just push through or something.”

“Absolutely not. I do not want you to push yourself into something uncomfortable. I never want you to feel that way with me.” Hanzo scratches lightly at Jesse’s beard, eyes tracing over his features. “Sometimes I worry how it will be when we finally...when you see my legs. What is left of them.”

“You know I don’t care--”

“I know, just as I do not care how your throat looks under there. But fear is not logical.” Hanzo moves one of his hands to Jesse’s left arm, pausing on the bicep. “You do not seem nearly as wary of this wound, though I know it pains you.”

Jesse sits back slightly and brings the metal arm around to rest between them. “I get phantom pains from time to time.”

“Did this happen at the same time as--” he gestures up at Jesse’s neck.

“Yeah. Not--it wasn’t the same--it didn’t feel--God damn this is hard.” Jesse puffs out an irritated gust of air. “I didn’t really get a chance to think about it at the time. It happened and it was over and done with. But the--the other one was drawn out, I guess.”

Hanzo burns with curiosity but he will not ask. Jesse said he did not want to talk about it and this is already pushing the boundary. Still, Hanzo’s mind fills in a dozen scenarios each more horrible than the last. No wonder Jesse has such reservations. “I would like to know, someday. But we do not need to cross that bridge today. For now, I will be careful where I touch.”

“Not too careful,” Jesse quips. Even on the tail end of a panic attack Jesse can find the time to make jokes. He leans in to kiss Hanzo again, but not before adding a soft, “Thank you.”

Hanzo can feel Jesse’s appreciation in the slow sweep of his tongue along his, the way their lips linger and cling. Hanzo is reluctant to let it end, but does. “Do you need anything from your rooms?” he asks.

Jesse blinks. “What for?”

“For sleeping here.”

“You...you want me to…?”

“I asked you to stay, did I not?” Hanzo kisses his lips once more, then his forehead before standing from the bed and going to the dresser Jesse had been pressed against. “We can attempt to watch A Fistful of Dollars again. Maybe this time we can get through without getting distracted.” This would be their third attempt. Last time they made it through the first act before they forgot the television was even on. He pulls out a clean pair of sleep pants and then, after considering how tight Jesse’s jeans are, selects another pair. Tossing them at Jesse he smiles. “They may be a bit short on you.”

Jesse stands and shakes them out, holding them up to his own hips. The hem of the legs falls above his ankles. He laughs and starts to toe off his boots. “They’ll do just fine. You wouldn’t have a shirt I could borrow?”

Hanzo leaves him one of the heather shirts that Lena had made him buy on their shopping trip, the red one because Hanzo may or may not have imagined Jesse wearing it on a few occasions, and goes to the bathroom himself to get ready for bed. He takes his time changing, brushing his teeth, and combing his hair. The last thing he wants to do is stumble in on Jesse as he is changing his shirt and making him feel more uncomfortable than he already does. He even lingers a minute longer just to be sure.

“I see you are more cleanly in other people’s rooms than your own,” Hanzo jokes when he steps out to see Jesse’s other clothes in a neat folded pile next to his boots. He has not spent much time in Jesse’s rooms but any sort of order within those walls is more of a suggestion. The bulky serape is around Jesse’s upper body again and he frowns. “Would you like something less cumbersome to sleep in?”

“It’d be far from the first time I’ve slept with one of these on,” Jesse assures, but Hanzo skirts around him to get to his bedside table. “What are you lookin’ for?”

Hanzo makes a pleased noise when he finds what he is looking for. “This,” he says, turning and presenting the handkerchief to Jesse.

“Hey! I’ve been lookin’ all over for that!” Jesse takes the navy and white paisley cloth with unexpected excitement, shaking it out. “I thought I’d lost it!”

“I found it in one of the dryers in the laundry room and was pretty sure it was yours, but I forgot to get it back to you,” Hanzo says.

Jesse pauses a moment and narrows his eyes at Hanzo. “Don’t you still have one of my serapes, too?”

That makes Hanzo turn pink and look away. “Ah. Yes, I...meant to get that back to you as well.”

“Uh huh.” Jesse leans in and kisses his cheek then makes a twirling motion with his finger, indicating he would like Hanzo to turn around. “Sure you did.”

“I did!” Turning his back to Jesse so he can put on the bandana, Hanzo quickly changes the subject. “You did not tell me how your visit with Ana went. I assume well?”

“Yeah, she’s just as great as ever.” There is a pause and Hanzo can hear the sound of cloth sliding against cloth. “We talked about Gabriel. He’s alive.”

Hanzo nearly twirls around in his shock and only just manages to catch himself. “What?! How do you know? Why did you wait to say so now?”

“I’m sorry, but if you recall we were a bit preoccupied on the way here,” Jesse says smugly. “Anyway, me and Ana were goin’ to tell Winston tomorrow. She found another one of his little nests and harder proof that it’s him. A drawin’ he did. Gabe used to draw a lot in his off time. Was pretty good at it, too. I figure if he hadn’t got all wrapped up on the Soldier Enhancement Program he’d’ve been a right fine artist. Okay, you can turn around.”

Now that he knows about this topic of conversation the bandana seems secondary. “Do you think his augments from the Soldier Enhancement Program are what kept him alive?”

“Maybe partially,” Jesse says, shaking his head. “But that can’t be all to it, not with the way he can turn into that black mist stuff. Whatever changed him like that ain’t the normal cocktail SEP injected the soldiers with. If it was then Jack would be ghostin’ all over base like a damn lunatic. I want to say Talon had somethin’ to do with it. They altered Amélie--” He stops himself and makes a face, then continues with a different name. “--Widowmaker so much her skin color changed. Wouldn’t be at all surprised if they’re behind whatever altered Gabe.”

“I cannot imagine it would be pleasant,” Hanzo says. Perhaps not the best thing to say given the way Jesse’s face scrunches up. Best to move on. “However you proceed from here, I would like to help.”

“Help?”

“You will surely start going on more missions targeting Reaper and his agenda, now that you know who he is. I want to be a part of it. In whatever capacity you need me, I want to help.”

Jesse’s smile flashes onto his face. “No one else I’d rather have with me, sweetheart.”

Hanzo pushes him onto the bed and over to the other side, making room for him to sit. It is only then that Hanzo realizes he has his own body fears to deal with tonight. Since the moment he realized that his own quarters on base were secure, he has taken to sleeping without his prosthetics on. It is a luxury he could not afford in the years he was on his own. Now he is reluctant to give it up outside of missions. Still, this would be the first occasion he has considered sleeping without them with someone else in the room.

Steeling himself, he rakes the fabric of his sleep pants up to his knees and begins the process of decoupling his prosthetics from the remnants of his legs. “Do you normally sleep with your arm attached?” he asks, keeping his head down and back to his partner.

“Depends,” Jesse says. Then Hanzo hears the dull metal clicks of the release catches above Jesse’s elbow. “Try not to go more than three days. Once I kept it on for a week when I was on the run; had a nasty blister afterward. Ain’t never doin’ that again.”

“I have had similar experiences. It is not the sort of thing one ever wants to repeat.” Feeling bolstered by the shared experience, Hanzo sets first one then the other leg down on the floor next to the bed. Both are within easy reach and oriented effortless retrieval. He gives each stump a few squeezes to relieve any soreness then ties a quick knot out of the loose pant legs at each end.

“Here, let me give you a hand,” Jesse says. Hanzo turns and has Jesse’s arm unceremoniously dropped into his hands.

Then he registers the pun. “Jesse, really?” he asks, pained.

“You eat it up, don’t lie.”

Hanzo briefly considers giving Jesse a solid thwack with the arm for good measure, but resists. Holding the metal arm in his grasp he lifts it a few times, testing its weight. He is a bit surprised by the heft of it. “We shall have to compare some other time,” Hanzo says, giving the soft glowing lights along one side a curious look before putting it on the floor with the others.

They shuffle around for a minute, Hanzo turning on the television while they adjust blankets and pillows and figure out how to comfortably fit together. It has been a very long time indeed since he twined his legs with anyone else, and never without his prosthetics on. It feels more intimate and sensitive than Hanzo expected and he cannot stop himself from moving his legs against Jesse’s to chase a little more of that feeling. Finally, after far too much fidgeting on Jesse’s part, Hanzo just wraps one of his arms around his broad shoulders and pulls Jesse down against him. The gunslinger nestles his head into the curve of Hanzo’s shoulder and after a moment’s hesitation he rests the remnants of his arm on Hanzo’s sternum. The light is not quite dim enough to hide the scars but Hanzo has no desire to dredge up any more bad memories tonight. “Comfortable?” he asks, queuing up the movie.

“Yeah. You make a mighty fine pillow, darlin’,” Jesse replies. His voice is deeper and vibrates against Hanzo’s ribs. He rubs his cheek a little against Hanzo’s pectoral. The prickle of his beard can just barely be felt through the cotton shirt.

Hanzo pets over Jesse’s hair and back and bicep in turn, always careful to avoid slipping too close to his neck, and they slip into a drowsy silence. There is a novelty to this, Hanzo thinks. Lying close and sharing body heat and comfort, the arousal from earlier set aside to simmer a little longer. The movie is just loud enough for them to hear the dialogue and the strains of the guitar from the background music.

When Hanzo lifts his hand on another pass through Jesse’s hair, the cowboy murmurs softly, “I don’t deserve this.”

For one long moment, Hanzo thinks one or both of them might cry. Lowering his head he brushes his lips against Jesse’s hairline, breathing him in. It takes him a moment to find his voice past the tightening in his throat. “I do not think I deserve you,” he replies on a whisper. “Yet here we are."

Jesse forces his good arm up under the small of Hanzo’s back so he can squeeze him tight around the middle. “Yeah,” he breathes rough as tumbling stones. “This is pretty good.”

Hanzo hums in agreement, closing his eyes and returning the embrace. They will eventually have to move when one or both of them loses feeling in their arms, when they shuffle down properly under the covers and drift off to sleep. But for now this is good. This is good.

---

“Captain Amari, you are every bit as bold as they say you are.”

“Thank you, dear. And please, I told you, call me Ana.”

Hanzo cranes his neck back as far as he can to look up at the tower before them. Comm Tower WP-G is the main communications hub for the Watchpoint. Elevated by reinforced struts and girders, it sits firm and tall next to the cliffs. From its base one can get an impressive view of the ocean stretching out to the horizon. It can only be more impressive from the top.

“Are you sure that this is safe?” Hanzo asks, eyeing the antenna littering the tower on every available corner and side. “Are there not energy waves, or radiation, electricity? Anything like that to worry about?” That question had been the only thing keeping Hanzo from exploring the tower before now, and at the time asking Winston had been out of the question.

“Perfectly safe! Ah, except that one,” she says, pointing at one of the longer ones about halfway up. There is a glaring red light on the end of it. “I would avoid that one. In fact, just avoid touching all of them if you can. But other than that, perfectly safe.”

Not exactly the most comforting assurance. He looks dubiously at the shape of the tower and the relatively smooth walls. Not many handholds to work with. It will be a difficult climb but with his crampons he should manage fine. Glancing over at Ana he frowns. “You have climbed this before?”

“All the time,” she says, pulling a coil of nylon rope from her bag and a series of carabiners and what looks to be ascenders. The final item she reveals is a small grappling gun of some sort that Hanzo instantly recognizes as Overwatch equipment. A bit outdated at this point, perhaps, judging by the wear and tear on the tool. Ana makes quick work tying off one end of the rope to the projectile.

Hanzo looks from the gun to the tower and back again. “Will that damage the equipment?”

“Not if I aim very carefully.”

The gun makes hardly any noise when it fires. In fact, the rope whipping up into the air makes more noise than that. Up, higher and higher, all the way to the top of the tower and over the edge of the roof. There is a distant clanging as the hook lands and Ana gives the rope a hard yank. Whatever she hit with the hook must have snagged because it holds firm.

Ana stashes the gun back in her bag and slings it and her sniper rifle over her shoulder. “Hopefully that caught the base of the radar antenna. It is the only thing that will reliably hold my weight. You will be able to climb on your own, yes?”

She does not even wait for an answer, already beginning her ascent. “I will manage.” Hanzo grins and walks back from the tower so he is about fifteen yards away. After adjusting his bow on his back and taking a few hops to get his blood pumping, he takes off at a sprint straight for the wall. Just feet away he leaps and begins a fast climb as far as he can get with that momentum before grabbing a ledge and jabbing his crampons between the metal plates of the tower. From there it is but a matter of finding one handhold after the next and keeping moving.

“Impressive trick, that,” Ana says, moving steadily up the wall nearby. “Would have loved to learn how, but that’s a young man’s move. Would be hell on my arthritis.”

Hanzo grunts. He would argue that he is hardly young anymore, but his attention is focused on not dropping to his death.

Although Hanzo makes it to the top first, Ana is not far behind. He offers a hand down when she is within reach and pulls her up the last few feet, which she thanks him for absently while securing her rope more firmly to the strut beneath the radar antenna. “There,” she huffs, standing once that chore is complete. “Little harder than I remember, but worth it. Ah, look at that. Just as breathtaking as it was ten years ago.”

Following her gaze Hanzo takes in the view from the top of the communications tower. Breathtaking is a fairly accurate descriptor. This is one of the things that only snipers can appreciate--the amazing views that can only be found after traversing a perilous climb to somewhere they really should never be. The view from the top of the mountain might be higher, might even be more conventionally picturesque, but the added risk of this spot makes it feel much more worthy, much more rewarding.

“I imagine you have climbed all over this island,” Hanzo says, turning his gaze to look off the other side. From this vantage point he can see all of the walkways below. An excellent spot to people-watch. He will have to remember it for later.

“Oh yes. I probably know it better than anywhere I’ve ever lived, save the Swiss base. I was stationed there as often as I was here.” Ana hooks her bag over the electrical box at the back of the radar antenna and sits to begin checking over her sniper rifle. Not a second later a stiff breeze has Hanzo shuffling to keep his balance and he kneels quickly to join her. “Careful. The wind is a lot stronger up here.”

Hanzo pulls his own weapon free from his back, keeping a hand down on the metal roofing to stay steady. “What are we aiming for?”

“Whatever strikes our fancy,” she says with a smirk. “The more difficult the shot the better, of course. The practice range is all well and good but people like you and I need a challenge.”

“I have never encountered a dart gun before,” Hanzo comments, watching her load ammo into the chamber. “Is that what it is called?”

“A bionic rifle, actually.” She scoots closer so he can inspect it as she finishes. “Custom made. There were only a dozen of us that specialized in ranged support like this. Very few with the talent for sniping make the crossover to using our aim for healing. Even fewer have the compassion to stick with it.”

Hanzo reaches out to pick up one of the darts, turning it carefully in his fingers. The chamber inside is filled with clear liquid--water. Must be to keep it balanced while practicing. “Fascinating,” he says, looking at the tiny needle at the end. “What are normally in the darts?”

“Oh, I have all sorts of concoctions in my arsenal,” she smirks. “All organic. Originally I was using a synthetic serum Overwatch purchased from a pharmaceutical partner, but too many soldiers were having allergic reactions. Angela was kind enough to work with me when she joined and together we found a solution that was more powerful and easily grown. Now I can just make my own.”

“Does it hurt?”

“It is better than dying.”

She cocks her gun and shuffles over to the edge of the roof near the corner closest to the largest radio antenna before laying down on her stomach. Following her lead, Hanzo takes up a kneeling position next to the radar antenna. Hopefully he can use the bulk of it to block the wind from knocking him over. Drawing an arrow from his quiver, his eyes scan the environment for targets. “After you, Cap--ah, Ana.”

Dropping her head down to view through the scope, Ana scans the cliff face until she finds something suitable. Her rifle makes a similar report to all the others Hanzo has heard in his life but this one is much more muted, not the loud crack he was expecting. It is a pleasant change. Across the chasm a rock breaks into pieces and flies off to be scattered on the floor below. “How are you liking Overwatch so far?” she asks, lining up the next target.

“It is better than I expected,” Hanzo says.

“How so?”

Hanzo wrinkles his nose, trying to figure out how to put it into words. “All we ever saw of Overwatch on the news was special forces in matching uniforms getting medals or posing for propaganda. Sometimes we would see footage of them in battle but that was rare. For someone without a formal military background, the thought of joining an army was discomfiting. I have no desire to be a soldier. And then to fit the image of someone like my brother into the rank and file of it all, it made no sense.”

“Yes, I can imagine. Genji is quite the character,” Ana says, amusement lacing her voice. “It seems he has lightened up recently.”

“We both have,” Hanzo says, smiling slightly. Back to the point, he continues, “I realize what we do now is similar to your old missions, but this does not feel like an army. And we do not blindly follow orders.”

Ana shakes her head and laughs at some inside joke. When Hanzo looks at her confusingly she explains, “Just reminding me of someone.” She adjusts the scope. “What else? What of the work?”

“I enjoy it. It feels good to know there are people that you can count on in battle. The work is fulfilling