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Liar Liar

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Part 2 – sometimes I’m lost in the silence of empathy

 

Jesse had made sure that the lights in Hanzo’s room had been under his control ever since that afternoon where they sat down and talked. He’d also made sure that Hanzo’s cuffs were in front of his body rather than at his back. It was a small change, but he knew it would be appreciated. It allowed Hanzo to have a modicum of dignity while he was held captive. Just because he was their hostage didn’t mean they had to strip him of all his dignity.

After all, if they were nice to Hanzo, they might be able to get more information from him. His ma had always told him that you caught more bees with honey than with vinegar and he figured that they could apply that to gathering information from stubborn sources. Somehow Jesse didn’t think that Hanzo was going to just spill information because they hit him some. Sure, he could tell that the younger man had gotten scared during their interrogation session, but not to the point of spilling information. Though, Jesse strongly suspected that was because of some serious brainwashing or something like that.

And because his superiors were idiots, they were insisting on trying forceful methods for getting information out of Hanzo again. Jesse had voiced his opinions and had been slapped with another person to ‘help’ with the interrogation. He knew that meant ‘actually run the interrogation’ because the Deadlock bosses though Jesse was being too soft. He wouldn’t consider refusing to do what the bosses had planned in this case to be soft – he considered that to be smart. Because this was going to make Hanzo hate Deadlock even more, and especially whoever the interrogator happened to be.

Not that he cared about Hanzo hating him or anything. It would just be detrimental to future plans if Hanzo hated him.

On top of that, they’d slapped him with Rideaux of all people to work with. Jesse was not a fan of the other man. At all. Deadlock was full of criminals, but Rideaux was just on a different level. He made Jesse’s skin crawl. And that was saying something. He wasn’t entirely sure what was planned out, what they were going to do, but he knew it was going to pull at Hanzo’s emotions and memories. But that’s all he knew.

He grumbled as he made his way to the interrogation room that Rideaux had chosen. Knowing the other man, he wouldn’t be surprised if there was an iron maiden hiding in the corner or some other medieval torture device. Jesse knew that Rideaux wouldn’t hesitate to use them, but that today’s subject matter was a lot less physical. No, this was far more on the psychological and emotional side of things.

And Jesse thought it was going too far, but he supposed that was beside the point.

When he entered the room, Hanzo was already bound to the chair, though this time just with handcuffs. Jesse’s brows furrowed together – that was a mistake. Hanzo had proven himself to be stronger than one would expect of an eighteen-year-old who, while muscled, was basically a twink. Well, that wasn’t his problem. Not if Rideaux was the one who was conducting the interrogation proper. Guess he’d just have to watch and see what happened. It might have been mean to hope that there were fireworks of some sort, but Jesse was in that sort of mood.

“Hey sweetheart.” Jesse tipped his hand and then leaned against the wall. “Sorry I’m late.”

He watched Hanzo roll his eyes before settling back into the stoic façade he’d worn the whole time Jesse had interrogated him the time before. He was honestly impressed by the poise and composure that Hanzo had been able to hold for much of the session. He hadn’t lost it until the end. Jesse knew of Deadlock guys who cracked for less. As in, the guys cracked and spilled the information while crying their eyes out. And then there had been Hanzo refusing to say anything. Jesse had been frustrated on the day of, but in retrospect, it was damn impressive.

“Remember, I’m in charge of this, McCree. You didn’t get him to talk last time.” Rideaux tossed his long black hair over his shoulder and glowered at Jesse. “Don’t screw this up.”

Jesse held his hands up in a classic ‘I don’t want trouble’ position. “Wouldn’t dream of it, Rideaux.”

He settled back against the wall and watched Rideaux lord over Hanzo. Much like during the session that Jesse had been interrogating Hanzo, Hanzo just silently stared up at Rideaux with an almost bored expression. He had heard the rumors of the Shimada clan, that they were dragons; that they were all too strong to be broken. He’d thought it was a load of shit until he’d started trying to ply information out of Hanzo. Now Jesse was thinking there might be some validity to the myth.

“Shimada Hanzo, I see that my associate was unable to get you to say anything during your last questioning. I assure you that I will have more success.” Rideaux’s voice was cocky and Jesse found that the urge to punch was rising rapidly.

“You can try.” Hanzo said the same words that he had said to Jesse, but with a much more condescending tone. He clearly didn’t think much of Rideaux or his abilities.

While Jesse wanted to say that Rideaux was completely incompetent, there was something he excelled at – getting under someone’s skin. He would find that one thing that made you tick and then exploit it until you were putty in his hands. Jesse had seen him do it time and time again. He had to wonder how Hanzo would do it.

The curiosity was purely from a professional standpoint. He wanted to know how to get information out of Hanzo. That’s all.

Rideaux took the denial in stride and hummed. “Why don’t you tell us why you’re in Santa Fe?”

As Jesse expected, Hanzo remained silent and continued staring at Rideaux. When he wasn’t in the moment of questioning, Jesse found something completely unnerving about that stare. It was like Hanzo had seen hell and nothing they threw at him was going to evoke the response they wanted. A thousand yard stare, of sorts. It was enough to make the small hairs on the back of his neck stand on end for a moment.

“I know this isn’t your first time here.” Rideaux settled into a chair across from Hanzo. His voice was warm, conversational. Jesse knew that voice was a knife concealed in candy – he was just luring his prey into a false sense of security. “You and your family vacationed here once, did they not?”

Jesse watched Hanzo’s posture stiffen and his eyes narrow ever so slightly. He’s responding…I wonder what Rideaux is talking about that actually has him responding. Hanzo remained nonverbal, but there was far more tension in his body than there was before. It showed in how his teeth were clenched together, how rigid his shoulders looked…

Whatever Rideaux had brought up, Hanzo didn’t want it mentioned in the least. That much was obvious to Jesse.

“I suppose that means yes.” Rideaux rolled his eyes and crossed his legs in an almost dainty way. “You were about ten at the time, I believe.”

Yeah, Hanzo is definitely reacting…this is weird… Jesse watched as the man’s metaphorical hackles went up and his face shifted into a scowl. As curious as he was as to why Hanzo was reacting, Jesse didn’t really want Rideaux to keep heckling him. There was a vague sense of unease creeping through Jesse’s mind and body, just the feeling that something was going to go wrong. And it wasn’t a feeling that he could shake away, it just kept lingering and needling at him. Again, he knew he should tell Rideaux about what was going through his mind, but if Rideaux didn’t realize there was something off about the situation then he was more of an idiot than Jesse initially thought.

“It must be full of fond memories.” Rideaux continued, his voice was still pleasant, as was the expression on his face. Jesse knew better. He was still using honeyed words to set a trap. “A happy family on vacation, spending time with your younger brother, your father…your mother…”

Damare!” Hanzo all but growled the word – Jesse recognized it was one that had been thrown at him during their conversation the other day. He still didn’t know what it meant, but context told him that it likely meant shut up. Closer inspection of the other man revealed that he was shaking, that his lips were twitching back into a snarl.

“Not so happy then?” The innocent tone that Rideaux was using made Jesse shiver. “I do wonder what happened…” That tone was far too knowing and Jesse was honestly wondering how Rideaux could have known anything about Hanzo’s past. “For you to react like this…hm…must have been distressing.”

Hanzo trailed off into some Japanese, more words that Jesse didn’t understand at all. But given Hanzo’s mood and expression, he could imagine that what he was saying was unpleasant and likely directed at Rideaux.

“Get on with it, curtains.” Jesse rolled his eyes. “No need to drag this out more.” Why am I helping our captive more than the guy who’s doing the interrogation? Eh, whatever. Not like I like Rideaux much anyway.

“I’m in charge here, McCree.” Rideaux glared in his direction before turning his attention back to Hanzo. “What if I told you I was there, Shimada?” The charming smile on Rideaux’s face shifted toward sadistic. “That I know what happened when you were last in Santa Fe?”

Jesse didn’t like where this was going. He was putting things together and he didn’t like how everything was falling into place. He had the distinct feeling that Rideaux’s interrogation was going to slip into ‘too far’, and that it was going to do so very soon.

“You were such a small ten year old, Shimada, and your younger brother was such a slight, sprite of a boy. But your mother…beautiful woman. You have her eyes, you know.” Rideaux’s smile was in place.

“Shut up!” Hanzo’s voice cracked as he very nearly yelled the words. Jesse noted that he was shaking harder and he couldn’t blame him in the least.

“Oh…I’ll stop talking, but only if you start telling us what we want to hear.” Rideaux leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. “So it’s on you, Shimada. You want me to stop talking about that day…you start spilling information.”

So that was Rideaux’s game. Jesse had to admit that it was clever, but he still thought this was going too far. Especially since Rideaux was talking about Hanzo’s mother. That…just struck a nerve with Jesse. He was a momma’s boy through and through; the whole reason he’d gotten tangled up with Deadlock was under the pretense of making it so she didn’t have to work as hard. Granted, he hadn’t known he was signing up with Deadlock at the time. By the time he had realized, it was too late to back out. The mere idea of weaponizing the memory of someone’s mother against them just didn’t sit well with him.

He flinched when Hanzo didn’t speak and glared at Rideaux with enough fury that Jesse was sure he was inflicting pain upon the other. Hanzo was very nearly vibrating from rage.

“Hm…guess I’ll just have to continue. You should know that your vacation had an ulterior motive…your father wanted to scope out Deadlock some. Our factions had crossed paths a few times and he wanted to know what sort of people he was dealing with.” Rideaux continued in that same faux-charming tone that made Jesse want to punch him “And as you know…Deadlock doesn’t like when someone shoves their nose in our business. So we observed…and then sent a message.”

Jesse felt his stomach knot up. He sure hoped this story wasn’t going the way he thought it was going to go. But he knew what ‘sent a message’ meant in Deadlock speak. It meant that someone had died, it meant that Deadlock had done something to Hanzo’s family. And despite having done research on the Shimada-gumi, Jesse didn’t know which of Hanzo’s was still living and which ones were deceased.

“You and your brother fought so hard when we found your hotel room.” Rideaux sighed. “To think that children were keeping up with Deadlock’s finest…” He shook his head. “Still, I was the one to call for back-up.”

“Stop it! Shut up!” Hanzo’s voice broke and he slammed back against the chair he was bound to.

“Remember, you can stop this at any time, Shimada. All you have to do is tell us what we want.” Rideaux held his arms out in a broad, open gesture. He waited for a moment, found Hanzo to still be silent, and then continued. “I don’t know where your mother hid you and your brother, so selfless of her, giving her life to save her children.”

“Rideaux, stop it.” Jesse bit the words out from behind clenched teeth. “You’re goin’ too far and you know it. Not right to be talkin’ about another man’s ma.”

“You…you were there…you were…you were one of the ones…” Hanzo’s voice was low, hoarse, a growl that was barely audible. “You killed her. You killed my mother. You…”

Jesse felt the pit of his stomach drop away. Hanzo’s mother had died and Deadlock had done it. And Rideaux had just admitted to being the ones involved in that act. Shit’s about to hit the fan and there’s nothing I can do to stop that…

From that moment on, everything happened very fast. Rideaux didn’t have a chance to confirm nor deny if he was one of the ones that had killed Hanzo’s mother – Jesse figured that Hanzo saw him as guilty no matter what was said. Honestly, so did Jesse. Hanzo stood with the chair hanging off of his back, slammed it against the wall to shatter it, and straightened up before them. And there’s the exact reason that I would have used leather straps rather than the damn cuffs. Rideaux’s a fucking idiot.

The cuffs were behind Hanzo’s back now because of how he’d been bound to the chair, but Jesse knew that was going to change quickly. And almost on cue, Hanzo ducked down low enough and jumped just high enough to bring his arms forward. Jesse was frozen. He knew he should do something to stop Hanzo, but part of him didn’t really want to. Rideaux had gone too far and really deserved whatever was thrown at him.

It was like the air in the room was frozen and, by proxy, everyone present. It barely felt like anyone was breathing. The moments stretched on and on and then everything shattered. Hanzo charged at Rideaux with a snarl.

“Don’t just stand there, McCree! Stop him!”

Again, he knew he should intervene, but he really didn’t feel like it.

Jesse watched as Hanzo got behind Rideaux and hooked the cuffs around the man’s neck. Yet another reason he would have used the leather straps rather than the cuffs. Especially since they were dealing with a man trained in martial arts. He shook away the idea of letting Rideaux suffer – he couldn’t exactly let Hanzo kill Rideaux. He knew what happened to those who killed a Deadlock Rebel and it wasn’t pleasant. He wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Not even Rideaux. And he couldn’t exactly let Hanzo get away.

By the time he was moving to intervene; Rideaux was struggling to breathe and clawing at the chain that was digging into his throat. Jesse sighed and moved to wrestle Hanzo away from Rideaux. The younger man was practically spitting nails and cursing Rideaux out in Japanese – words that Jesse recognized, but didn’t understand. Hanzo had thrown them at him a few times. An elbow nearly smacked Jesse’s jaw, but he managed to duck it, somehow. Each time he thought he had Hanzo under control; the younger man slammed some limb into a part of Jesse’s body and made Jesse regret his decision to not wear body armor. Eventually, he managed to muscle Hanzo off of Rideaux. Thankfully, that was before Rideaux asphyxiated – though Rideaux had definitely suffered. He tucked Hanzo against his body and held him tightly. It took more effort than he wanted to admit too – Hanzo was strong as hell. I shouldn’t think his strength is hot, especially not when his fucking pointy elbows keep jabbing my stomach!

“Get him out of here.” Rideaux barked at Jesse while he rubbed at his neck with one hand and flailed in the direction of the door with the other. “Now!”

Jesse rolled his eyes and slung Hanzo over his shoulder. “Yeah yeah, pendejo.” He started back toward the room that they were keeping Hanzo in though progress was slow given how much Hanzo was fighting against him.

“Let go of me, let me at him, I’ll kill him!” Hanzo’s voice was rough and his fists kept smashing against Jesse’s back.

“And that’s exactly why I’m not lettin’ you near him.” Jesse sighed as he kept walking. “Would you mind not damagin’ the goods?”

“Fuck off!” Hanzo’s voice broke and he kicked.

With all of his flailing, Hanzo had slipped down Jesse’s shoulder just enough that the kick was going straight for very sensitive areas. Oh no. Jesse didn’t have time to try and block the kick and it connected with his groin. Tempted fate too much by asking him to not damage the goods, now he actually did damage the goods! He choked on his spit and nearly dropped Hanzo and nearly went to the ground. Somehow, he stayed on his feet. Ugh, I feel like I could puke… “Mother of fuckall, you hit like a fuckin’ truck.”

“He killed my mother…let me at him. Now.” Hanzo thrashed against his hold.

“…not right of him to talk like that…” Jesse grumbled as he continued toward the room. “Fucker deserved everything you threw at him.”

Hanzo went still at those words and Jesse was honestly surprised. He had expected to get a few more bruises in the process of trying to get Hanzo back in his room. But it wasn’t like Jesse was going to complain, his nuts were already aching, he didn’t need to be sore everywhere else too. Silence fell between the two of them as Jesse finally got him back in his room. He set him down on the blanket and then took a step back. The younger man was seething, but wasn’t making any attempts to attack Jesse anymore. That was an improvement. Maybe.

On closer inspection, Jesse realized that nothing about Hanzo’s posture was right. He was hunching in and making himself appear smaller. Jesse felt his chest tighten at that – it was so different to see him like that. He’d gotten used to seeing Hanzo projecting the image of being an unbreakable dragon…and now…

Seeing him like this felt…wrong.

“I’ll, uh, give you some time on your own. I’ll be back in a bit.” Jesse turned away from Hanzo – a ballsy move given the whole ‘Hanzo nearly choked out Rideaux’ business. But no attack came.

He stepped out the door and closed and locked it behind him. Jesse leaned against the closed door and heard the faint sounds of heaving breaths and soft, hiccupping sobs. I shouldn’t be hearing this…

Jesse shook away the feelings that lingered in his mind and went to go get some work done. He needed something to distract himself…

 


 

 

Jesse had been off on a few missions away from the Deadlock base. It had been refreshing to get some air and get out in the field. He’d been confined to working The Rusty Bullet for a bit due to an injury he’d incurred in the field and had been kept back even after recovery due to the acquisition of both Ludger and Hanzo. He didn’t mind being on base, but he started getting more than a little stir crazy. He was the sort that got neurotic when he was confined to the base for too long. So he’d jumped at the opportunity for a mission that was a week long.

Now that Jesse had stretched his muscles and gotten some fresh air and gotten some action (in multiple meanings), he was more than happy to come back to Deadlock. He had a bounce in his step as he made his way through the hallways. A few people greeted him with a standard ‘howdy’, some asked how the missions had gone, it was nice to have people saying hello after being out for a week. He was looking forward to getting back to his quarters, taking a shower, and falling into bed for the next sixteen hours. Jesse was bushed from the job.

He was nearly back to his quarters when he felt someone tap his shoulder gently. Jesse stifled the reaction of drawing his gun and pressing it to the person’s forehead. No, he merely turned around with his hands set on his hips. “Can I help ya?”

Ludger stood before him looking small and young and just a little afraid. “S…sorry to interrupt. I know you just got in…but the bosses were asking for you.”

Jesse felt the small flower of hope that had bloomed in his chest wither into nothingness. Of course the bosses were asking for him. That was just his luck – he was beginning to think he was cursed or something like that. But he exhaled and wilted a little. Just because he was disappointed didn’t mean he had to intimidate Ludger, poor kid was already skittish enough. “Alright, thanks for lettin’ me know, Luds. Can’t get a break, eh?”

Ludger let out a weak laugh and shrugged. “Guess not. See you at the bar.”

Jesse watched the younger man dart away like a startled animal and shook his head. Well, it was best that he not keep the bosses waiting too long. They tended to get testy and he was already in hot water for letting Hanzo beat up on Rideaux as much as he had. Still don’t think I was wrong to let that fight keep going.

He made his way into the lounge – he knew that the bosses would be hanging around in there at this time of day. Well, at least Jesse hoped they were. The bosses were pretty regular in their daily routines, so he was pretty confident. Not everyone was allowed in the lounges, so Jesse figured if the bosses weren’t in there, then he’d at least be able to talk to someone who knew where they were.

He poked his head into the lounge and saw the familiar profiles of Brook Kilgore and Adina Meyers – the current Deadlock bosses. Brook Kilgore was a man who looked more like a piece of worn leather and was just as tough. It was clear that he’d spent a good amount of his life out in the sun. His tanned skin was striped with scars that stood out clearly. His dark hair was peppered with greys and his eyes were a murky brown. Even in his older age, he was built like a tank and Jesse knew from experience that he could hit like a truck. Adina was a newer addition to the Deadlock leadership – she was only in her mid-thirties or so. From what Jesse knew, she had been with Deadlock since childhood and it showed. Her body was littered with scars and she was missing her right arm – there was a high-tech prosthetic in its place. Her hair was bleached out blonde and her eyes a sharp, cruel green. She was beautiful like a viper was – equal parts grace and danger.

Jesse was terrified of both of them. But the two of them wanted to speak with him, so he would push aside his fears for the sake of work.

“Good, Ludger caught you before you tried to hibernate.” Kilgore sighed as he glanced over at Jesse. “Looks like being out on mission treated you well.”

Jesse nodded as he strode over to them with his head held high and his shoulders back. Amusing, his kind drifted back to how Hanzo had greeted the idea of being interrogated – no showing weakness.  “You know how I get, sometimes I needta get out to burn off some energy. I’m like one of those dogs that eats the carpet when they don’t get exercise.”

He internally winced when he realized that he’d called himself a dog in front of his bosses. Good one, McCree. Next they’ll be telling you to sit and stay and giving you treats for good behavior.

Though to be fair, he wouldn’t really mind treats for good behavior. Not dog treats, obviously, but things like liquor and off time? Count Jesse in.

“I take it that the mission was successful then?” Adina hummed as she swirled liquid in a glass.

“’course it as.” Jesse wouldn’t be so chipper if it had been a failed mission. He knew better than that. He was cocky, but not on that level. Acting like that in front of the bosses after a failed mission was basically suicide. “What didja two need from me? I’m mighty tired.”

Kilgore laughed at what Jesse assumed was Jesse’s steel-plated balls, not many would be so direct with the bosses. Jesse knew what he could get away with though. “Alright, we’ll get to the point. Our guest has become listless, not eating. We think he might be protesting again.”

Jesse was about to ask which guest, but he knew which one they were referring to. Hanzo. He scratched at the back of his neck and tried to figure out the reasons why Hanzo would stop eating at this point.  From what he’d observed, Hanzo was smart enough to eat to keep himself strong just in case he was given the opportunity to escape. And while he hadn’t been happy with the way he was being kept, he seemed to know that it could be much worse. It didn’t really add up in Jesse’s mind. That meant that something had changed while Jesse was out on mission. At least that was the conclusion that he had come to.

“I take it you want me checkin’ in on him then?” That’s the only reason for this talk that Jesse could think of.

“You’re the only one who has managed to get anywhere with him in terms of him being non-hostile. I hate to ask you to do more work right after getting back from mission, but this is a job for you, Jesse.” Adina shot him a look, that might have appeared sympathetic to some, but Jesse knew better. It was all manipulation.

Jesse knew that she was right, though. It pained him to admit that when all he wanted to do was go and get some sleep, but Adina was right. No one else had made progress with Hanzo. And if his inkling was right, others had probably hindered and outright undone all the progress he had made.

He rubbed at his face, an uncharacteristic show of weakness in front of the bosses. Jesse was tired and wanted to fall in his bed, but he’d do his job because that’s just how he rolled. “Got it. I’ll get right on that then.”

Kilgore barked out a laugh and slapped his hands against his thighs. “And that’s why we rely on you, McCree. Get on it.”

Jesse gave them a polite smile and bowed his head slightly. He was waved off a moment later and he skittered out of the lounge. Once out of the room, he scrubbed at his face again to try and wake himself up some. It was moderately effective, so there was that. He started toward the room where Hanzo was being held and tried to put his usual persona on. Less effective. It’ll have to do.

He opened the door and prepared himself to hear Hanzo scamper back away from the sound – but only heard soft, semi-labored breathing. Jesse frowned slightly as he completely entered the room and closed the door behind him. The lack of response from his entrance was concerning, to say the least. “…Hanzo?”

“…go away…” The words were weak, the voice gritty and strained. “Leave me alone…”

Jesse’s brows furrowed together. Hanzo was lumped underneath one of the blankets and pressed as close to the wall as possible. Even from where he was standing, he could see that the man was shivering. And the room just had that smell of illness. Jesse was more familiar with that particular smell than he ever wanted to admit to anyone. This is just like when ma was… He shook the thoughts away and took a few steps closer to Hanzo. He lowered his voice, softened his tone – so much gentler than he’d usually be with one of their captives. “Can’t leave you alone, honeybee. What’s going on?”

Hanzo made a weak sound of protest, but didn’t speak. He merely curled tighter into the blankets – which only served to concern Jesse even more. He knelt down next to the blanket bundle and rested his hand against his shoulder. Even through the blanket, he could feel heat radiating off of Hanzo. Yet he was shivering. He has a fever…

Jesse settled back and sat with his legs crossed. He was frowning deeply – how had no one noticed Hanzo getting sick? He could understand maybe a cold going unnoticed, but the way Kilgore and Adina had been talking made it seem like Hanzo had become uncooperative days ago. Jesse was going to be having words with whoever had been watching over Hanzo for that time period.

He chewed on his lower lip before gently shifting Hanzo away from the wall, removing the handcuffs, and arranged him so his head was resting on his lap. It was ballsy, Jesse didn’t know what kind of sick Hanzo was other than ‘very’, but he needed to be able to see him to figure out what was going on. That meant risking getting puked on. His frown only got more prominent as he saw how pale Hanzo was, the pallor in his skin, the sweat beading on his brow, the pain that he wasn’t able to hide. He’s really sick…

“I’ve gotcha, baby.” Jesse smoothed his hand against Hanzo’s forehead. He’s burning up, damn… “Shoulda let someone know you were sick…”

Hanzo grumbled at that and shifted with obvious discomfort. “I’m fine.”

Jesse rolled his eyes. He knew this act, it was one he relied on often enough. Unbreakable, no help need, independent, a lone wolf. And maybe with someone else, he would have let them keep up that act. No…no he’d always recommend that someone seek help when they were ill. Wish I’d told ma to get help…

“You’re not fine, Hanzo.” He kept his voice gentle as can be. “You’re sick as a dog. Doesn’t do any good to hide that. It’s okay to ask for help…”

Hanzo shifted again and groaned. “Don’t trust you.”

That much was plainly apparent to Jesse. He sighed and scratched at the back of his head. He whistled to get attention of the people watching over the video and audio feed and muttered an apology when Hanzo winced. “Need someone to bring me a damp washcloth, some mint or ginger tea, an’ some Tylenol. Now.” Jesse tried to keep his voice even, but his terseness was carrying through.

Jesse had to wonder how Kilgore and Adina had missed their captive – their very valuable hostage – getting this ill. Had the people keeping an eye on Hanzo just ignored him when they came in? Had they done anything while he was away? Did they not realize the importance of keeping a hostage well?

“Why are you helping me?”

The words jolted Jesse back to reality and his irritation faded minutely. He exhaled and relaxed his body. “Why wouldn’t I?” There were a lot of reasons for Jesse to do so – to gain Hanzo’s trust, to make sure that their captive didn’t die, because he was under orders. There were fewer reasons to not help. It made Jesse wonder what the Shimada did to their heir if he was so used to not getting help with things. “How long you been feelin’ like death warmed over?”

“…since about two days after you left.”

What surprised him most was that Hanzo was cooperating – he had to be feeling miserable if he was actually answering questions. Jesse couldn’t even remember how long he’d been on mission – what mattered was that Hanzo had been sick for too long. And that whoever had watched over him had been negligent in the extreme. Gonna have words and my words might actually be fists…

“Damn darlin’, I know you’re playin’ tough guy, but you gotta let someone know when you’re sick.” Jesse sighed – he sounded like a broken record. It wasn’t going to do any good to keep saying that over and over. “I’ll look after you. Promise.”

A moment later, the door opened and the items that Jesse had requested were brought in. He asked that more blankets and pillows be brought as well as a cot. There was no reason that their captive be kept on the floor – they were hurting him. There was also the mention of words being had because he needed to figure out what idiot let this happen. Jesse smoothed the cool, damp cloth across Hanzo’s forehead and then helped him sit up. He kept him resting back against his chest for stability’s sake.

“Alright baby, I’ve got some tea for you…and something that’ll get your fever down some. You feel up to havin’ some tea?” Jesse kept one arm around Hanzo’s waist to make sure he didn’t tumble to the ground.

“…not really…” Hanzo shivered hard and shifted uncomfortably.

Jesse felt for him, he really did. He knew how much it sucked to be sick to the point of not being able to eat. He hated that feeling…it wasn’t one he’d wish on his worst enemy.

“Just a little.” He took the mug into hand and sniffed it. “I’ve got mint tea…it’ll settle your stomach some. Could you take a couple sips for me? Just enough to take this medicine.”

Jesse watched Hanzo shift just enough so he could shoot Jesse a confused, distrusting look. “…okay…but I hate mint.”

He breathed a sigh of relief and helped Hanzo bring the mug up to his mouth. The other man groaned, but swallowed the tea without much complaint. Jesse grabbed two Tylenol and put them in Hanzo’s hand. Again, the man drank down a bit of tea without complaint and then slumped back against Jesse’s chest. It was concerning that such a small action had exhausted him…but if he’d been sick that long…

They fell into silence. Jesse didn’t want to disturb Hanzo’s rest and he doubted that the other really wanted to talk. He wouldn’t press for conversation; that was just rude. Again, the door opened and a few Deadlocks carried in some blankets and two brought in a simple cot. Jesse motioned for them to set it up against the wall and instructed them to spread one blanket across the cot to act as a sheet.

“Starshine, I’m gonna move you, is that okay? You have a bed now.” Jesse ran a hand through Hanzo’s sweaty hair. He got a weak nod in response.

Jesse carefully rearranged the tea so it didn’t spill and then scooped Hanzo up into his arms. The man felt so small, so fragile, so light – it was hard to believe that he was someone dangerous. He set Hanzo down on the cot and propped him up slightly with the pillows that had been dropped off. He then took to bundling him up in blankets and getting the tea in arm’s reach, just in case.

“Do you want me to stay for a bit, dragonfly?” Jesse was standing up and leaning over the cot just a little. A hand gripped onto Jesse’s shirt and stayed there weakly. Words that Jesse didn’t understand were uttered, but he got the idea. Hanzo didn’t want to be alone and Jesse couldn’t blame him. No one deserved to be alone when they were this sick. Chewing out the bosses could wait until Hanzo was asleep. “Alright, I’ll stick around for a bit, sweetheart.”

Jesse settled in on the edge of the cot and held one of Hanzo’s cold, almost sweaty hands. Every once and awhile he’d smooth the man’s bangs away from his forehead to check on his fever – still present, but lower than it had been. At least there was that. Eventually, Hanzo drifted off to a fitful sleep and Jesse started to get up. But Hanzo whimpered in his sleep and mumbled in his native language and that grip on his sleeve tightened even more. There was a pang in Jesse’s heart and he sat back down right away. I can’t just leave him…that’s not right… The memory of him leaving his mother at home, sick and suffering, while he went to try and make money so she didn’t have to work as hard stuck out in his mind. No…Jesse wasn’t going to leave someone alone through an ordeal like that again.

Jesse settled in for the long haul and tried to make himself as comfortable as possible without disturbing Hanzo’s positioning. The younger man eventually shifted so he was tucked up near Jesse’s leg. He glanced down at him and felt his face soften – at least the other was resting easier now. He was just doing his job, he was just making sure the mistakes of others were rectified. That was all.

Oh, if only Jesse believed himself.

 


 

 

It had taken a good week to get Hanzo back into the realm of healthy. Jesse had chewed out both Kilgore and Adina and then had gone on a rampage to find out who had been watching over Hanzo while Jesse had been off on his mission. He had been significantly less polite with the other Deadlocks – and in his mind they deserved everything he threw at them. They had jeopardized whatever they were working out with the Shimada. Jesse doubted that the Shimada-gumi was going to be particularly pleased if they found out that their heir dropped dead. So he’d put the fear of god into the younger Deadlocks and mentioned just how damn lucky they were that Hanzo had come out of his sickness relatively unscathed.

There were still younger Deadlocks that were keeping their distance whenever they saw Jesse in the halls. Apparently he’d made an impression. Good, they really needed that damn wake-up call.

Jesse had refused missions while Hanzo was recovering and Kilgore and Adina had respected that. They had also assigned him to be the one in charge of making sure Hanzo was actually cared for since apparently no one else could be trusted to do so. He didn’t really mind, even though that assignment kept him on base more than he really liked to be. As much as Deadlock headquarters was home, Jesse didn’t like being cooped up. He needed to be able to feel the sun and wind on his face and be able to stretch his legs.

He was on his way to check up on Hanzo again. Jesse had been checking in every few hours every single day for the last week or so. He wasn’t entirely sure if Hanzo appreciated the company or if he was irritated that his alone time was being interrupted. It was hard to tell if he was irritated or amused sometimes, but Jesse was getting better at reading his moods. Even if Hanzo didn’t appreciate his presence, Jesse figured that no one should be alone as long as they’d been keeping Hanzo alone.

Incidentally, that was the other reason he was being kept on Hanzo duty. No one else was remotely good at reading Hanzo’s moods. The fact that Jesse could do it at all insured that he was the one who would be looking after the Shimada heir.

He opened the door and was greeted to the sight of Hanzo sitting on the cot with his knees pulled to his chest. Jesse couldn’t help but smile a little – there were a lot of improvements there. There was color in Hanzo’s cheeks again, and this time it wasn’t from fever. The bigger thing, to Jesse at least, was that Hanzo wasn’t cowering. Many of the times that Jesse had entered the room, Hanzo had curled in on himself and had hidden himself as best as he could. But this time he was just sitting there. Sure, he was looking a bit sulky, but who wouldn’t in this sort of situation? I’m really glad that he’s feeling better…

“Hey there sunshine.” Jesse grinned as he leaned against the wall with his arms across his chest. “How are you feelin’ today?”

Hanzo’s expression was haughty, but almost seemed a little softer than it had been before. Slightly less guarded. “As well as someone can feel when they are caged.”

“Aw c’mon, you know that’s not what I’m talkin’ about.” Jesse rolled his eyes and laughed lightly. “Physically. How are you feelin’ physically?”

He got an eye roll in response and couldn’t help but grin at that. “Much better.” There was a pause and Hanzo looked away while he fiddled with one of the blankets. “…thank you…”

“Not a problem, darlin’.” Jesse stretched languidly. “How’s about we take a bit of a walk so you can stretch your legs some? Can’t imagine you feel good sittin’ around all the time. I’d be chewin’ the walls.”

The look he got in response was untrusting and downright hostile. Jesse couldn’t really blame him for the lack of trust. After all, they were holding him hostage and Jesse had tortured him for information. But, to Jesse’s credit, Jesse had been kind to him on most occasions and had gone to bat for him more than once. Granted, Hanzo didn’t know that Jesse had struck the fear of god into some of those younger Deadlocks, but it still counted in Jesse’s mind.

“…are you going to put the cuffs back on me if we leave this room?” Hanzo’s eyes were narrowed and his mouth a tight line.

“Are you gonna try and run away from me?” Jesse set his hands on his hips and cocked them to the side. He couldn’t help the semi-playful tone that had taken residence in his voice. “Because that’s what determines if the cuffs go on.”

Jesse continued to hold eye contact with Hanzo until the other man looked away. That genuinely was the only reason that Jesse would put the cuffs back on Hanzo at this point. Hanzo running would reflect poorly on Jesse and even if he was regarded well among those at Deadlock, a hostage escaping on his watch would have results he didn’t really want to think on too hard. That…and Hanzo had suffered enough in his short time with Deadlock. Maybe Jesse was trying to be as nice as he was able to be.

“…I won’t run…”

Jesse jolted in surprise – he hadn’t expected to get an answer either way. He knew Hanzo was appreciating having his hands free (who wouldn’t appreciate that?), but admitting that he wasn’t going to run away almost seemed akin to admitting defeat. It hadn’t seemed like something a proud Shimada dragon would do. Color me surprised…

“Well, then I don’t needta be puttin’ the handcuffs on you.” Jesse grinned and motioned for Hanzo to get up. “C’mon, fresh air will do you some good.”

Another look of thinly veiled distrust was thrown in Jesse’s direction, but he shrugged it off. He was being honest – they were just going to walk a bit and get some fresh air. He genuinely thought it would do Hanzo some good to breathe.

Jesse waited for Hanzo to get moving – it took a bit more effort than one would have anticipated. But Hanzo had been relatively sedentary for some time now; Jesse had to imagine he was feeling a bit stiff and sore. He led him through the halls and up a flight of stairs. The further they got from the room that they’d been keeping Hanzo in, the more Hanzo seemed to be perking up. Maybe it was just general exercise that was upping his mood, but Jesse had the feeling it was being away from what was basically his jail cell.

He also noticed that Hanzo was taking great care to keep a decent amount of distance between himself and Jesse. Every time Jesse got a little too close, Hanzo edged a bit further away. It was another very clear indication of ‘I don’t trust you.’

“Got a bit of a treat for you…” Jesse hummed as he kept guiding Hanzo through the halls. He could smell a bit of the desert air from where they were, he supposed that might be enough for some people, but not for him.

“I am unsure I want a treat from you.” Hanzo responded quickly, but his voice didn’t have much bite to it.

“Aw c’mon, darlin’. Where’s your sense of adventure?” Jesse looked over at Hanzo and waggled his eyebrows. He didn’t get a response. He shrugged slightly. “C’mon, this way.” He tapped a code onto a data-pad and the door to his bedroom opened with a mechanical sigh.

“…where are we?”

Jesse paused and looked over at Hanzo. The man had gone rigid. His arms were crossed tightly over his chest and his jaw was clenched to the point that Jesse swore he could almost hear his teeth cracking.

“My room.”

Apparently that was the wrong answer, because Hanzo took two steps back and had shifted into something much more akin to a combat stance. “…excuse me??”

Jesse held his hands up. He didn’t want trouble. And really, this wasn’t anything like that. “Not like that, sugar pie. What kind of man do you take me for?”

Again, no response. At least one that Jesse understood – Hanzo was muttering in Japanese. He supposed he couldn’t blame him, Hanzo’s only examples of what kind of man Jesse was were a bit…varied. He’d been the one to kidnap him, had caught him after his escape attempt, hit him, choked him, stood by as another man talked about Hanzo’s mother’s death, stopped him from killing the aforementioned man, handcuffed him… The list of things that Jesse had done to him was extensive and the only thing that he had done that might earn Hanzo’s trust was taking care of him while he was sick. And even that could be interpreted as Jesse following orders.

“Not gonna do anything to you, just c’mere.” Jesse motioned for Hanzo to follow and gave him a wide enough berth that it didn’t look like he was going to touch him at all. He exhaled in relief when Hanzo actually followed him, though Jesse noted that he was definitely keeping distance between the two of them. Again, couldn’t blame him for that.

Jesse moved to the far side of the room and opened a sliding door that went to the outside – to a small, simple balcony that looked out onto the gorge. The sun was high in the sky and there were barely any clouds in sight. A clear, beautiful day. Jesse leaned against the exterior wall and crossed his arms over his chest.

Hanzo slowly emerged from the building with one hand shading his eyes. Jesse flinched internally – he supposed going from being kept in a room t going out into the bright sunlight was probably a bit of a jump. He should have given him sunglasses or something. But the brightness didn’t seem to bother Hanzo in the least. His eyes were wide and he almost seemed frozen as he stared out the expanses of fiery cliffs and sand.

He really is beautiful, isn’t he? Jesse kept staring at Hanzo and how he was illuminated by the Santa Fe sun. It was easier to see how refined his features were, how strong his jawline was and how sharp his cheek bones were. The sun made his skin tone look warm and golden and his eyes look like fire. It was easy to forget that Hanzo was Deadlock’s prisoner.

Well, at least until he noticed how raw and red Hanzo’s wrists were even though he hadn’t been cuffed in some time now. Or the bruises that were scattered across his exposed skin. Or the dark circles that framed his eyes…

Jesse looked back out at the scenery rather than the man he was supposed to be watching. There was an odd pang in his chest and a twist in his gut when he looked at Hanzo too long – one that he didn’t feel too often.

Guilt.

He didn’t want to feel that way – after all – Jesse was just doing his job. But Hanzo was just a kid. Even if he was legally and adult, he was in over his head and more scared than he was letting on. How could he not be scared? He was away from his family and being held captive by a gang that was continuously trying to get information out of him. Even someone who was trained to deal with being interrogated and various other things would be scared…

Hanzo didn’t deserve any of what they’d put him through.

“Thought you might like the view, that’s all.” Jesse finally spoke up again, if only to distract himself from the guilt that was boiling in his stomach. “And that a bit o’ sun out do you some good.”

Jesse wouldn’t claim to be a medical professional, far from it, but he knew that people needed sunlight because of something dealing with vitamin D. He knew that not getting enough sun/vitamin D/whatever could make people sad – sure as hell made him sad. Whenever he’d had to do any missions up in the northern United States, Jesse had been damn miserable. He’d been exhausted, sore, and didn’t really want to do anything which was incredibly counterproductive when he needed to be working.

Hanzo shot Jesse another look – his eyes were still narrowed, still filled to the brim with distrust. But this time his brows were furrowed in slight confusion and it looked like he was chewing on the inside of his cheek. “…thank you.”

“Not a problem, sweetheart.” Jesse finally shifted away from the wall and rested his hands against the railing. There was the odd thought that it would be so easy for Hanzo to shove him over the edge and then make his escape, but he ignored it. Somehow, he didn’t think that was going to happen.

“Everything looks like fire.” Hanzo’s voice was soft. “Very different than what I’m used to. Interesting, though.”

“Its home for me, so it’s beautiful.” Jesse’s voice was wistful, though. Santa Fe was his home through and through, Deadlock Gorge especially. But what he longed for was his mother’s ranch and the small gardens and the horses. He longed for home. But he’d left that all behind in hopes of supporting her…

And now she wasn’t in Santa Fe anymore.

“How can it be so hot during the day but so cold at night?” Hanzo fanned himself and frowned just a little. It seemed that he was opening up again, or at least letting his guard down enough to talk without actively watching Jesse’s every move.

Jesse smiled slightly and launched into an explanation of the desert climate and various other facts about his home. The conversation flowed easier than it should have between two people who were, strictly speaking, enemies. But Jesse didn’t mind that in the least. It was nice to have someone to talk to, though he figured that Hanzo was just humoring him to get more time outside in the sun.

If he was nice to Hanzo, Jesse was certain that it was going to be easier to get that information out of him. Deadlock had tried force through Jesse, they’d tried getting into Hanzo’s head through Rideaux, and neither had worked. Jesse was honestly surprised that Adina and Kilgore hadn’t considered kindness.

There was part of him that felt dirty for doing this…after all…Hanzo was just a scared kid who was far away from home. But Jesse did have a job to do, and he intended to see it through to the end. Even if the job made him feel awful.