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An Exhaustion You Can't Sleep Off

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“Sweetheart,” Jesse says gently, sitting up slowly and carding a hand through the black hair of the man next to him. “You awake?”

The sheets rustle slightly in the darkness, and Hanzo Shimada hums in acknowledgement, his head resting on Jesse’s chest, his eyes still unopened. “What’s wrong?” he mutters sleepily.

“Can’t sleep, s’all,” Jesse replies a little guiltily, leaning his face into Hanzo’s hair. ‘Can’t sleep’ was an understatement. He’d been jolted awake more times than he could count, old nightmares coming back to haunt him. He felt a little bad for waking Hanzo up, but he desperately wanted someone to talk to.

“Mm.” Hanzo’s hand reaches up to brush lazily against Jesse’s cheek. “Are you asking for me to serenade you back to sleep, then?”

“Honey, I ain’t askin’ for a wake-up call,” Jesse says with a snort, accompanied with a light pull on his ear. “Ow. Sorry darlin’, y’got the voice of an angel.”

Hanzo makes a noise of mock approval, then falls back into a comfortable silence. Jesse combs his fingers through the archer’s hair again, sighing. He reaches out to the bedside table with his other hand, pinching a cigarette from a box and a lighter from next to his ashtray.

“Jesse.” Hanzo grumbles into the cowboy’s chest as Jesse lights the end. “I thought we agreed on smoking being balcony-only.”

“Aw, honey,” Jesse whines, “one smoke ain’t gonna make the curtains disintegrate. Just once?” he begs.

“Can I say no,” the archer murmurs, “when you’ve already lit up and I am so comfortably against you?” Hanzo sighs. “Just one, for the nerves.”

Jesse grins, planting a kiss on the top of Hanzo’s head. “You’re the best, darlin’.”

He leans back against the headboard, putting the cigarette to his lips and taking a long drag. He expels a long plume of smoke and watches as it curls and dissipates in front of him, staring thoughtfully at the empty space behind it.

“Y’ever heard of the song ‘Fireflies’?” says Jesse, pinching the cigarette between his fingers.

The archer is quiet for a moment. “No.”

Jesse pauses for another drag on his cigarette, breathing smoke out of his nose. “My ma used to sing it to me, real long ago, when I was real small. Was real popular in her time, she used to say. Ain’t my style, after hearin’ the actual song fer myself, but it sure’s a pretty song. ‘Specially when my ma sang it.”

“Mm.”

“It’s such a weird song,” he continues. “The melody’s got you thinkin’ it’s a happy song ‘bout some fantasy land, but y’look a li’l deeper and y’realise it’s a song ‘bout insomnia. All those fantasies he dreams up are jus’ things he thinks up t’make his night more bearable.”

"Mm.” Jesse knew Hanzo wasn’t listening, the latter was probably already falling back asleep. He still appreciated the attention Hanzo was trying to give him, though.

“There’s a lyric in there,” Jesse says softly. “ ‘I’m far too tired to fall asleep.’ It ain’t make no sense at first -- my punk ass used to fall dead the second I hit the pillow. But after I got older, I finally understood.” He murmurs into Hanzo’s hair. “Sometimes there’s an exhaustion y’can’t sleep off, y’know? Sometimes yer so tired it ain’t feel like tiredness no more.”

There was no reply. Jesse slows his own breath, feeling Hanzo’s chest rising and falling peacefully next to him, before taking another drag on the cigarette. Jesse exhales the smoke in a sigh.

“It’s been good near a decade,” Jesse’s voice is barely above a mutter, “and they still ain’t lettin’ me sleep. Those nightmares. They ain’t loosin’ their grip on me till I’m six feet under, and even then they’d probably still be houndin’ me.”

Hanzo is definitely asleep. Jesse gives Hanzo a light squeeze, nuzzling the top of the archer’s head, and goes back to smoking.

Inhale, exhale. Jesse lets his thoughts go silent for a moment, focusing instead on his cig, like some kind of breathing exercise. A mighty unhealthy one, he muses. He remembers his colleague, a certain Ana Amari, chiding him for the variety of cigs he’d put in his mouth; fondly he remembers all the times she’d slapped them out of his mouth when he was younger. It pissed him off at the time, but he always got a chuckle out of it nowadays. He missed Ana.

Who was he kidding -- he missed all of them. All the filthy buggers in Blackwatch, dark humour always abound, cracking jokes as they hauled corpses into bags like they were digging for laundry. He missed that fucker Reyes, cackling like a goon when some dead man’s finger accidentally fell off, going through three packs a day without ever looking like he’d even touched one. He missed Overwatch, too -- they were his family, accepting as they were. Recall was great and all, but prime time was long over. The television programme was in intermission.

Hanzo moves a little beside him, pulling Jesse back into the present. The cowboy’s eyes linger on Hanzo’s sleeping face, and he sighs in content. Recall was great. Never in his wildest dreams would he have thought he’d ever meet with such an intriguing man otherwise, with a history like some kind of storybook. Falling for him? That was pushing it. (He did, anyway.)

“Jesse.” Hanzo sighs suddenly, warm breath on Jesse’s chest. He was awake, after all.

“I’m here, sweetheart.” Jesse puffs on his cig.

“The song,” Hanzo mumbles, “what did it sound like?”

“Fireflies?” A noise of assent. Jesse’s face wears a small smile as he lets loose another cloud of smoke. “You want me to sing it to you, darlin’?”

“I do not mind.”

Jesse’s smile grows a little wider. “It’s a li’l fast for a lullaby, but I’ll slow it down for ya.”

He takes one last puff on his cig before he snuffs it out on the edge of the bedside table, throwing the butt into the ashtray. Jesse sucks in a quiet breath.

He remembers how his ma hummed it for him -- so much slower than the real song, but with all the wonder and innocence of the song still in place. It was a peaceful tune, one he replicates now to the best of his ability. It sounded a little strange, what with how deep his voice was, but it had to do. Jesse falls easily into beat, and feels Hanzo relax at his side, his breathing mimicking the rhythm of Jesse’s humming. And after a while, he starts to feel tired -- his notes start to slur a little and the tempo starts to slow as he snuggles back into the sheets, careful not to move Hanzo.

Jesse breathes out the last lyric. Hanzo lays still next to him, deep asleep.

He was always tired, yes, but for now, Jesse McCree cherishes a rare bliss. He closes his eyes wearily, and allows himself to be enveloped in the drowsiness he’d been waiting for all night. Jesse’s mind blanked, and he went under.