Startled, Jesse glanced around, brushing away the pink cherry blossom that floated down from the trees. Squinting into the distance, he could see a familiar figure drawing back a bow and firing a heart-tipped arrow into a heart-shaped target.
Racing over, Jesse grinned dopily when Hanzo turned to face him, a small smile on the Japanese teen’s. Hanzo dropped his bow on the ground and ran at Jesse, leaping into his arms as they both fell to the floor, their fall cushioned by the blanket of cherry blossoms.
Laughing, the pair twisted onto their sides to face one another, with Jesse beaming at the sight of Hanzo’s small, shy smile.
Slowly, Hanzo shuffled closer, leaning in for a kiss… until he drew back in shock and alarm as lightning flashed overhead and the scene changed.
The sakura trees suddenly became disfigured and burnt and the flowers on the ground grew mouldy.
“What’s wrong?” Jesse asked as Hanzo continued to back away, bringing his hand to his face… only to feel the skin peeling away from his face.
He shot to his feet in alarm, desperately trying to push the skin back into place as smoke started to seep out of his hands. His eyes started to burn and his cowboy hat melded around his head, turning into a hood.
Hanzo looked terrified, crawling away from Jesse as the American grew and grew, his fingers turning into claws and smoke blinding his vision.
As Hanzo backed further and further away, Jesse desperately tried to reassure him that everything was alright.
But only one, repeating word came out.
“DIE, DIE, DI-AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!”
Jesse shot up in his bed, frantically feeling his face and only relaxing when he realised that no, his skin wasn’t falling off and he wasn’t turning into smoke.
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP!
Jumping slightly as his phone beeped, Jesse scrambled to grab it from under his pillow, sliding the answer button to the side in order to answer it.
“Jesse! Where the hell are you?”
“You should have been here an hour ago!”
“What are you talking about?”
He glanced at his clock, which read 4:02… however a quick look on his phone indicated that it was actually 7:50.
Jesse leapt out of bed and grabbed his jeans, jumping into them as Fareeha continued to talk.
“Maybe we should just call the whole thing off!”
“No way! It’s now or nev-AH!”
Tripping over his own pant legs, Jesse fell to the floor with a loud crash.
“Okay…” sighed Fareeha, “… well you’d better get here soon. Meet me at my locker.”
She hung up just as Gabriel burst into the room, a vacuum trailing behind him.
“Good…” he hissed, “… you’re up.”
Gabriel rolled his eyes (or he probably did…. The mask kind of hide everything) “Yeah, yeah…. I forgot.”
He backed out of the room, shutting the door as he went.
BANG BANG BANG
Seconds after knocking, he burst into the room again. “Morning niño. I was just wondering if you had any… dirty… clothes.”
Yeah, Jesse did..... and they were spread all over the floor of the room.
“Yep, there they are!” answered Jesse, shoving a t-shirt over his head and grabbing his precious hat, “Help yourself!”
“Jesse…” Gabriel shook his head, “… We talked about this ingrate. You might have gotten away with a lot with Jack but- “
“- Ah’ll deal with it later!”
Audibly, Gabriel sighed. Ever since his kidnapping at the hands of the terrorist organisation, Talon, and Jack’s…. disappearance, their son had refused to talk about either event.
What Talon had done to Gabriel was obvious and everyone in the town knew what happened… but Jesse didn’t want to acknowledge what happened.
Watching as his son raced around the room (it was a miracle he didn’t trip up over anything), Gabriel frowned. “What’s the rush?”
“Ah’m gonna be late!”
“Well I can always drive you there on the way to work?”
“Er, n-no thanks! Ah need the exercise!” exclaimed Jesse, as he raced out of the room.
“Jesse, come on…” sighed Gabriel spinning around to keep an eye on his son…unfortunately, the loose clothing on the floor caused him to trip and stumble backwards, forcing him to brace himself against the wall.
“Papi!” Jesse yelled, glaring at his Dad as the older man’s claws ripped through a poster, “Aw Papi, you ruined it!”
Gabriel instantly felt guilty, glancing at his claws in shame. “Sorry Jesse… who was on it?”
“Powerline, he’s only the greatest singer in the world…. Even Lucio admits that, and he’s really proud of his music.”
“Huh, I thought the greatest singer in the world was Freddie Mercury. You used to love him remember? Maybe we can find some of those old records, I’m sure I’ve got- “
“- No time Papi!”
Jesse cut his Dad off and raced out of the front door, practically racing down the garden path.
Gabriel floated towards him in his ghostly form, reappearing and handing him a paper bag.
“You forgot your lunch ingrate!”
As he was handed his lunch, Jesse couldn’t help but notice that other students ran past their house… nobody wanted to linger outside the house of the Reaper.
And no-one wanted to hang out with Reaper’s kid.
“Yeah… thanks.” He muttered, refusing to look his Papi in the eye and heading out of the garden.
After he hopped over the gate and dodged the marbles game further down the street, he heard a female voice from up the street.
“Thank god it’s almost summer! If I had to do one more Algebra test, I was gonna lose it!”
“Yeah, no tests and no more losers!” answered a male voice, “Like the cowboy freak!”
Jesse flushed in embarrassment, hiding behind a tree as they passed.
He used to be relatively popular before… before the incident. Now, with his Papi so severely affected by Talon’s experiments, everybody was afraid of the small family.
And fear often manifested itself as mockery and disdain.
As he continued his journey to school, Jesse heard other students gleefully talking about summer meant no more exams, gym, pep rallies or the school lunches.
From the end of the day onwards, they all would be free to go to the mall, read comics, laze around all summer etc.
Jesse had a goal of his own though. By the end of the day, he was going to ask Hanzo Shimada out.
Speaking of Hanzo….
He waved at the Japanese teen as he walked past… only to receive no reaction.
Hanzo just walked right by him, not even glancing in the direction of the other teen.
Not that Jesse could really blame him…. Hopefully after today, the situation would change between the two of them.
Not deterred by this small issue, Jesse realised that he had less than an hour before the end-of-year assembly, forcing him to break into a run.
As he entered the school grounds, he almost knocked into Principal Winston, who rolled his eyes and called after him, “MCCREE! Try to finish the school year without ending up in my office!”
“YES, PRINCIPAL WINSTON!”
So long as their little surprise succeeded without a hitch and they got away with it, he would end the school year on a high.
On the school grounds, the excitement of the upcoming summer holidays had reached an all-time high, and Jesse couldn’t help but race up the bleachers to see how many students were there, aka, how many students were going to the assembly today.
The sight was promising.
Secure in the knowledge that almost everyone would witness the event, Jesse span around on his heel in order to make his way back down the bleachers… only to stumble and fall down to the bottom, right in front of the jocks and the cheerleaders.
“What happened McCree?” jeered one of them, “Why didn’t you just float down like your freaky Dad?”
As the rest of the crowd laughed and made their way into the school, Jesse kept his eyes on the ground, refusing to make eye contact with anyone as his face flushed in embarrassment.”
“Are you alright?” asked a concerned, accented voice as someone gently took a hold of his arm and helped him to his feet.
“Yeah, yeah ah’m okay, ah j-j-j- “
He stopped in his tracks when he saw exactly who had helped him, stuttering like a fool as Hanzo stared at him.
Jesse couldn’t get the words out. He tried and he tried, but nothing but gibberish was coming out.
After just less than a minute of gibberish, Hanzo’s stern look faded and he chuckled warmly, shaking his head in exasperation.
At the sight of the usually stern teen chuckling, Jesse couldn’t help but join in… until he snorted mid-laugh. The laughter stopped immediately as Jesse clapped his hands over his mouth in embarrassment and ran in the opposite direction, desperate to get away before he could embarrass himself any further.
He did end up almost tripping over a bin as he went, which didn’t help.
As he rounded the corner, snarling to himself in frustration, he failed to see Hanzo staring after him, a soft smile on his face.