After the initial awe has worn off, most agents forgot that the Commanders were enhanced soldiers. Stronger, faster, more enduring, better than everyone else. Commander Morrison barely ever displayed his battle prowess anyways, so perhaps one could be forgiven if one forgot that he was actually a war machine. And even though Commander Reyes could often be seen in training with his own agents, and these in turn witnessed him in active combat, he usually held himself back. Over time, it became as some sort of myth.
“What do you think, can he lift a hovercar?”
“I don’t know, but maybe he can punch through a wall or something.”
And yet still no one ever flinches from cornflower blue eyes when Commander Morrison shakes their hand after a successful mission and thanks them with a warm pat on the back. No one is afraid to spar with Commander Reyes, because they know even if he could snap their backs with his little fingers, he would never do it.
Jesse McCree was one of those lucky bastards that got personal training in hand to hand combat from Commander Reyes. He was a special case, who did not earn this privilege by being talented in this field – no, Commander Reyes had gone out on a limb by recruiting Jesse’s mangy ass, sticking his neck out for him. He had an interest in Jesse passing the unofficial entrance test. So personal training it was.
Jesse knew the basics of street fighting, which didn’t help him much on the mat. No dust to throw in his opponent’s eyes, no broken bottles to swing, no dirty tricks. Just sleek, streamlined bodies colliding. For the first few weeks Jesse got his ass handed to him, naturally. But after a while Commander Reyes’ style of teaching started to catch on. He wasn’t one to show fighting forms and walking him slowly through the basics, building onto those step after step. No, he went in, threw Jesse on his back and quietly declared him dead. Then he punched him in the stomach, flipped him over and declared him dead. Then he grabbed his arm, twisted it, and put his head in a lock grip, declaring him dead.
It left Jesse to figure out his own fighting style. He learned to anticipate Commander Reyes’ moves, and how to counteract them. He became quick on his feet, and even quicker in the mind. Soon, the bruises he got were ones he took, calculated, as a means to an end. Which was not dying instantaneously.
Still, Jesse was always on the defense. Never once did he manage to get a single jab in on Commander Reyes’ ribs, and even thinking about punching him in the face got Jesse ‘killed’ more often than he could count.
Sparring with Commander Reyes was every day, early in the morning, and then later again in the evening, after dinner. In between, Jesse learned about strategy and tactics, human rights, public relations, low-tier hacking, and psychology. Some of the classes were taught by Commander Morrison himself, despite his busy schedule. He always took some time to spend with the new recruits, apparently, and this time he did it by teaching them about positioning, holding corners and situational awareness.
Jesse liked Commander Morrison’s classes. He had a clear way of speaking, and good teaching material. Sometimes he told them stories about the Omnic Crisis, little anecdotes about his shenanigans with Commander Reyes. There was something to the depth of his voice, and the shrewd glint in his eyes that put Jesse at ease in his presence, while simultaneously being awe-inspiring.
The hours between classes and before dinner were spent honing his shooting. Hours upon hours, shooting and maintaining his Peacekeeper, demolishing training bots. His scores, though always very good, steadily began to climb. After he even got some pointers from the famous Captain Ana Amari – Jesse absolutely almost fainted when she looked at him with those piercing eyes – he even got into the top five scorers.
Jesse had been given six months of grace period, though, and they were coming to an end soon. Captain Liao supervised his written exam, and Major Mirembe was the expert at his oral exam. He thought he did well. The marksmanship exam he wasn’t worried about, and sure enough he scored his personal best. That was a sure pass.
Hand to hand combat, however, gave him nightmares. He still only managed to graze Commander Reyes sometimes, but overall remained on the defensive. It took Commander Reyes more than ten minutes sometimes to ‘kill’ Jesse, but still. There was no way Jesse could win – and wasn’t that what he needed to do to pass the test?
The day he was to take the sparring exam, Jesse woke up with a queasy feeling in his stomach after only getting two hours of sleep.
If he fucked this up, he would go to prison. Commander Reyes had made that very clear. Prison, or Blackwatch. And he only took on the best of the best. Failing this ended the grace period that allowed Jesse to enjoy the luxuries of an international task force. High water pressure in the shower, three meals a day, clean clothes, and all the gear he could ever ask for. Failing meant having to go back to the old way of living. In prison.
He was trembling when he appeared in the training hall, five minutes early. Commander Reyes and Commander Morrison were both standing on the mat, both dressed in gym clothes, talking, touching, and laughing amiably. Was Commander Morrison going to evaluate Jesse’s performance? That would be like disappointing the nice uncle who always told you how proud he was. Jesse swallowed the nausea and stepped closer.
“Ready, kid? Warmed up?” Commander Reyes said.
“Yes, sir,” Jesse lied. Well, he did warm up. But he wasn’t ready at all. He wasn’t ready to fuck up and end this dream of an opportunity.
“Step on the mat.”
Taking a deep breath, Jesse did as he was told. Only to blink in confusion, when it was Commander Morrison who joined him on the mat.
“It’s gonna be alright, McCree,” Commander Morrison said, smiling a bit so his eyes lit up.
“On the count of three,” Commander Reyes said.
“Wait, but- …”
“One. Two. Three. Go!”
Commander Morrison lowered himself into a crouch and let out a bellowing shout before charging at Jesse with such incredible speed, he could only freeze and let himself be thrown onto the mat. When he came to – there was spinning and pressure going on – he was in a full body lock, Commander Morrison’s arms and legs effectively pinning Jesse on the ground. There was nothing he could do to get out.
“Fuck,” he said into the ground.
“Gabe? I thought you said he was ready.”
“I did. He is. Maybe you just scared him with your horrible impression of a haka.”
“Hah, very funny.”
Jesse was aware of the Commanders talking over his still prone body. He wanted to sink into the mat, disappear, forever. He lost. He failed.
“Hey, buddy. Why don’t we make it a best out of five?”
Jesse laboriously sat up, feeling strangely detached from his own limbs. He was going to prison. His life was fucking over.
“Oh shit. McCree? Jesse?”
Suddenly he was aware of a calloused, warm hand on his face, tilting it up. There was something funny about the sight of two larger-than-life men crouching in front of Jesse with wide, worried eyes. Worried. About him.
“I don’t wanna go to prison,” he whispered.
The worry morphed into confusion. And then, Commander Morrison frowned thunderously, and barked: “Gabe, didn’t you tell him?”
“Tell him what?”
“Tell me what?” Jesse asked simultaneously.
Commander Morrison’s face softened.
“Jesse. I shouldn’t tell you this, but you aced your marksmanship test, obviously. And you scored over 90 on your written and oral exams as well. There’s no way you’re gonna fail. Just show us you learned some self-defense, and you’re fine.”
“B-but … There’s no way I can beat you.”
Commander Morrison looked at Commander Reyes with something akin to accusation at this. The latter sheepishly met Jesse’s confused gaze.
“There’s no way you’ll ever beat us in hand to hand, McCree,” he said matter-of-factly. “We’re super soldiers. That was never the goal of the test.”
Jesse stared. And then: “Oh.”
“Just stand your ground against Jack for a minute, and you’ll have done better than half our recruits.”
“Oh. Can I … Give me a minute?”
Both Commanders nodded, and turned away while Jesse took care of the embarrassing tear tracks he previously didn’t even notice on his cheeks. He wasn’t trembling anymore.
“I’m ready,” he said, meeting Commander Reyes’ warm, dark gaze. He nodded, and gestured for them to go on the mat.
“It’s gonna be alright.”
This time, Jesse smiled back at Commander Morrison. He wasn’t going to hurt him. Jesse was going to do his best. Jesse wasn’t going to prison.
When Commander Morrison charged at him this time, Jesse was prepared. He held his ground. Dodged and blocked the punches coming his way. Broke the holds and grips Commander Morrison was trying to get him in. Even got a satisfying kick in in retaliation for a particularly nasty leg lock.
Ultimately, however, Jesse ran out of breath and strength. When his reaction was finally just a tad too late, and Commander Morrison gently incapacitated him, he was grinning.
“Three minutes, twenty eight seconds. I believe that’s the thirtieth best time we’ve had or so?” Commander Reyes said from afar.
Jesse nodded and accepted Commander Morrison’s hand, letting himself be hoisted onto his feet by superior strength. He suddenly realized that, if he had wanted, he probably could have lifted Jesse over his head with one hand.
“So … I’m in?”
Both Commanders beamed at him.
“Yeah,” Commander Reyes said, clapping him on the back with a gentle, giant hand. “Yeah, kid. You’re in.”