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Autoclave

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This is bad.

Jesse groans through his teeth as he stumbles again. Hanzo’s having trouble keeping his grip on the blood-slicked body armor. Genji wishes he could help, but his left leg is completely unresponsive from the knee down, only barely better than nothing. He can only manage a hobble without the wall for support.

The only light is from the overhead fluorescents in a few scattered offices, cutting harsh shadows into the hallway. Genji doesn’t need the light, the amplified infrared overlay from his helmet sensors is more than enough to navigate this office building, so he’s leading the way.  The way where, he’s not sure. Any place that’s not in the middle of a long hallway with no cover.

He sees a dark alcove, dark even to him, and he leads them into it. Hanzo sets Jesse down, gently guiding him to the floor. Jesse is almost dead weight in his arms, weak from blood loss. Genji slides down the wall into a crouch, his useless leg sprawled out beside him. He takes another futile look into Hanzo’s empty quiver, the last arrow fired to silence a Talon scout four minutes ago. Hanzo didn’t dare leave to retrieve it while both Jesse and Genji were injured.

There’s faint shouting in the distance. They must have found the body of the scout.

This is really bad.

Hanzo hooks his bow over his shoulder and unwinds Jesse’s serape, then presses it against the wound. Jesse makes a small, choked noise when Hanzo bears down. Hanzo screws his eyes shut, wincing in sympathy, but he doesn’t let up.

“We’ve found some cover, but they’re close,” Genji whispers into the comm.

“I’m still six minutes out,” Fareeha calls back. “Just hold on!”

They don’t have six minutes. Jesse left a trail of blood leading right to them, and those Talon fuckers won’t miss it. Fareeha knows that. It won’t stop her trying though, and for that Genji’s grateful. She’ll give them the hell they deserve, if nothing else.

“Acknowledged,” Genji says, muting his mic.

“I still got thirty-eight shots,” Jesse says. “Just prop me up so I can see and get ready to pass the speedloaders.”

Jesse McCree with nearly forty rounds usually makes for good odds, but there’s no way he can aim for shit right now. He could barely stay upright a minute ago. His pathological refusal to just roll over and die is heartening though.

“Toss ‘em a flashbang first, just t’say hi,” Jesse adds. He’s out of flashbangs, has been for a while. He can’t seem to remember that, but Genji’s quit correcting him.

Genji’s dragon churns with frustration under his skin. If he could move, he could do something about that Talon squad when they show up. Hobbled, well, he doesn’t think they’ll be feeling generous enough to get within impaling distance before opening fire.

But he’s not the only one who could do it.

“Hanzo.”

Hanzo turns toward him. Genji takes a deep breath. He’s not going to like this idea.

“You have to use them.”

“I’m out of arrows!” Hanzo hisses. “I don’t think they’d make a difference if I ran in barehanded.”

“That’s not what I mean.”

“What then?”   

Genji reaches over his shoulder and draws his sword. Hanzo balks, jerks away as far as he can without moving his hands. Genji could have offered him an armed grenade and he wouldn’t have reacted as badly.

“I can’t, Genji.”

“Yes, you can. We’re going to die here if we don’t do something, and fast. You’re our best shot for survival.” It feels like playing dirty, but he doesn’t want to watch his brother and his best friend get gunned down in front of him. Doesn’t want to get gunned down himself.

“Don’t gotta do nothin’, sugar,” Jesse mumbles. “I can still shoot.” Both brothers look at him. His color is getting bad, and the blood is still coming. He needs medical intervention, and he needs it ten minutes ago.

“Please, Hanzo,” Genji pleads. He knows his brother hasn’t touched a sword in ten years, he knows why, fuck he knows why, but he was truly gifted in the art. With the kind of power Hanzo is capable of wielding, he stands the best chance of getting the three of them out of this alive.

“Genji, anything else, I would do anything else.”

“What else is there? Do you think you can shoot his gun fast enough to kill them in time? I know I can’t.”

Hanzo looks stricken, his eyes darting between Genji and Jesse. He opens his mouth, barely, but no words seem to come. Genji knows asking his brother to pick up a sword again is no small thing. He wishes he didn’t have to.

The pounding of footsteps begins to echo down the hallway. They’re closing in on them.

Hanzo curls over Jesse, pressing his forehead against the other man’s. Jesse mumbles something Genji knows isn’t meant for him, and he pretends he didn’t hear. Hanzo stays like that, breathing Jesse’s air, for the space of a few heartbeats before kissing Jesse’s forehead and sitting back up.

“Give it to me,” Hanzo says. His voice lacks his usually surety, but his outstretched hand is steady.

Genji hands him his sword. Hanzo hesitates for the barest instant, but he takes it. Genji takes his place pressing the serape into Jesse’s wound.

Hanzo stands and tests the heft of the sword. The sight of him causes a reflexive surge of unease in Genji. That silhouette is burned into his memory, and no amount of time will dampen his response. But this isn’t like the last time Hanzo stood over him with a sword.

The thundering of boots is closer now, almost on them. Hanzo darts out of the shadows, bellowing his incantation-cum-battle cry. Blue light bathes the hallway as Hanzo’s dragons burst into existence.  Genji throws himself over Jesse, for all the good it might do. 

The screaming begins almost immediately, cut with gunfire. Genji’s faintly surprised he can hear it over the pounding of the blood in his ears. Jesse grabs his upper arm, maybe out of panic. At least he still has enough of his wits to stay quiet.

Genji knows what it must look like out there. Those men, armored and armed to the teeth, firing wildly at his brother. Hanzo—who is burning blue with electric fire, ionizing the air around him and moving faster than any human should, dodging blows and bullets almost before they happen, slicing through body armor and meat and bone like it’s water—has become an unstoppable, implacable maelstrom.

Genji is intimately familiar with that feeling of power and exhilaration from all those brief moments when he and his own dragon have overlapped. Her senses become his, her reflexes his, her power his. Her teeth and claws tearing into the nervous systems of his enemies, burning them out as he cuts them open. Her firing his synapses in perfect unity, wringing every possible unit of force out of him.  The great glowing web of probability forking out around him, futures looming brightest just before the wave functions collapse into actuality and his enemies attack. He can’t even begin to imagine what a taste of the bicameral mind of Hanzo’s dragons is like in that state, how much more they must be.

The footsteps and gunfire peters out  as the light dims, and then, finally, silence and darkness. Genji waits for Hanzo to say something, waits for anyone to say something. Jesse is breathing through an open mouth, rapid and shallow, and his eyes are wild with fear. Genji takes Jesse’s hands and places them on the serape. He meets Jesse’s eyes through his visor, and Jesse nods.

Genji arms himself with a set of shuriken before twisting to get up. He soundlessly crawls to the corner, ears straining to hear anything. If Hanzo died out there—

No.

Hanzo’s too stubborn for that.

Genji peers around the corner. The walls and floors are scorched and scarred in long arcs.  Bodies cover the floor, all little better than mangled heaps of burnt meat. The air reeks of gun smoke and ozone and death. Genji fights the urge to gag on the smell, activates the scrubbers in his respirator. He pulls himself up the wall to get a better look, but none of these people are his brother. He must be chasing down the runners. That must be it.

Genji retracts the shuriken and limps back to Jesse.

“Where is he?” Jesse asks.

“Mopping up,” Genji replies. Hopes that by saying it, he can make it true.

It’s not easy to get Jesse back on his feet, but Genji manages. He wads up the serape and shoves it under Jesse’s ruined body armor, hoping that’s enough pressure to make a difference. They end up leaning on each other to stay upright, just like old times. The nostalgia does nothing to blunt the cold fear eating its way through Genji.

Where is Hanzo?

Jesse stops dead when he sees the hallway, jaw hanging open. Genji can’t fault him, but he drags him forward anyway. He knows Jesse’s seen worse. He doesn’t linger on why they’re both so inured to this kind of brutality.

“Fareeha, hostiles neutralized. I’m going to try to bring us out on the south side.”

“Roger, Genji,” she says, relief evident in her voice. “I’ll be waiting for you.”

The hallway is completely dark now, the only light coming from the streetlights outside. Genji can see no sign of anything living no matter which set of sensors he queries. He can’t stop cycling through them though, like a nervous tic.

They come to a junction. There’s scorch marks on the wall down one path, but the other leads back outside. Genji takes them toward the exit. Jesse is leaning harder on him, his breath catching more frequently. Genji tries to keep his focus on their surroundings, alert for danger, even if he’s not sure what he’d do. He should have at least taken Peacekeeper.

When they stumble out into the courtyard, Fareeha is there pacing. She runs to them as soon as they breach the doorway. Genji gets a little feedback from her calling her brother’s name with her mic still hot.

Genji shoves Jesse into her arms as soon as she’s close enough. She picks him up and cradles him against her chest. The Raptora suit enhances her natural strength to the point that Jesse’s bodyweight is no worse than a child’s.

“Get him out of here!”

“No!” Jesse snarls, shoving at Fareeha. “Where’s Hanzo?”

“I’ll get him,” Genji says. “Go, Fareeha!”

Fareeha adjusts her grip on Jesse, pressing him close despite his protests, and then with a pulse from her boosters is airborne. Genji watches until he’s reasonably sure that if someone was going to take a shot at them they’d have done it before turning back to the building.

It’s easy to track Hanzo—just follow the carnage. There are three more corpses and a trail of burnt air leading Genji deeper into the building. The ceilings in this part of the building are lower and the light fixtures are damaged, housings mangled and sparking. They didn’t come this way, so Genji has no idea if it was dark before and the lights were collateral damage, or if Hanzo deliberately tried to drown this area in darkness.

 It’s eerily quiet. Hanzo must have gotten them all.

Genji finds his sword first. It’s clean. Genji knows from experience that’s because the blood flashed off. He sheaths it, hoping he won’t need it, and keeps going.

He hears something, a soft hissing. He freezes, listens for a long moment, but it doesn’t get more or less faint. He rolls his wrist for a set of shuriken and eases forward to the noise.

He rounds a corner and finds a pair of restrooms. The sound must be a running faucet. There’s a strip of light under the door to the men’s and blood on the handle. Genji presses the door open.

Hanzo is standing at the sink furthest from the door, leaning with both elbows on the counter and his hands under the water. Dark red smears mark a path toward him, like he staggered back there and had to catch himself on the counter and the cubicle dividers. He’s muttering to himself, low enough Genji can’t hear. Genji swallows hard.

“Hanzo?” he calls. Tries to keep his voice even and calm. Hanzo flinches and curls further forward. “Hanzo!”

Genji limps toward him, leaning on the counter but dodging the blood smears. Blood isn’t pooling under his brother, so maybe he wasn’t hit. Maybe none of this is his. Genji stops just out of arm’s reach. Hanzo still won’t look at him.

He’s staring at his hands. The upper parts of the sink are spattered pink with the diluted blood. The skin on his hands is flushed with the heat from the water. It probably isn’t hot enough to scald, but Genji’s not sure Hanzo would have noticed if it was.

Hanzo himself is spattered with small dark dots on his clothes. His face is smeared with rusty streaks. It looks like he tried to wipe it off before his hands were clean. Even at his angle, Genji can see the vivid whites of Hanzo’s eyes.

Genji chews on his bottom lip. He asked his brother to save them, and he did. Now it’s on him to deal with the fallout.

“Brother?” he tries, voice softer this time.

“It won’t come off,” Hanzo says, his voice strangled.

Genji steps closer, leans his hip into the counter for balance. He turns off the water, then slowly reaches down toward Hanzo’s hands. Hanzo jerks his hands back to his chest. He’s staring at Genji’s hands, at his side, which are—

Oh. Jesse bled on him.

“It’s okay, I’m okay, Hanzo.”

Genji reaches across his brother, who edges back slightly, and grabs a handful of paper towels from the dispenser and wets them. He wipes his own hands clean and then reaches for Hanzo with a bunched up damp towel.

“Here, let me.”

Hanzo is frozen in place while Genji does his best to wipe the blood from his forearms and face. Hanzo’s focus slips to his own hands, still pinkish from the hot water, as Genji works as quickly as he can.

He steps back and scans over Hanzo. There’s nothing he can do about his clothes, but at least his skin is clean. Genji’s first instinct seems to be right, none of the blood was Hanzo’s. He managed to come out of the summoning and fight unscathed.

“We have to go, all right?” Genji says, hoping to get his attention. It’s not as if it’s untrue. The longer they’re here, the better the chance that someone—maybe Talon, maybe the local authorities—finds them. Genji’s already spent much more time than he’s comfortable with.

Hanzo doesn’t react, is still staring at his hands. Well, Genji thinks, desperate times.

Genji throws his arm over Hanzo’s shoulders and leans into him. Hanzo instinctively shifts to take his weight instead of falling like Genji feared or throwing him off in offense liked he’d hoped. Genji steps forward, tugging Hanzo along. He begins to walk, supporting Genji’s weight. It’s something.

They make better time leaving than he did with Jesse or on his own, but Hanzo doesn’t seem to really be with him. He’s staring ahead, blank and quiet. He’s alive though, they’re both alive, and Genji can work with that. He just has to get them back to the Orca.

Genji takes them out the west side of the building, just in case anyone saw him hand Jesse off to Fareeha. He flips through the sensor overlays—nothing. He still keeps to the shadows, carefully weaving them through the dimmest alleyways and side streets. This business park is abandoned at this time of night, but Genji can’t stomach any more risk right now. At least, even in his fugue state, Hanzo’s footfalls are as silent as his own. Some things are just that ingrained, Genji supposes.

Hanzo starts trembling, maybe as part of the comedown from the adrenaline, maybe from fatigue from the summoning. Genji tightens his grip, mutters some encouragement. It’s not much further now. He doesn’t have to keep it together for much longer.

When they finally round the corner to where the Orca is sitting, Genji sags with relief. Hanzo still doesn’t say a word. If anything, he’s retreated further into his own head. He hasn’t stopped trembling though.

Genji leads them up the ramp. Jesse is shouting, hysterical, half lying in a cryopod. Both Amari women are standing over him. Reinhardt is fretting behind them, hands up ineffectually and making abortive movements toward the cryopod. There are empty biotic darts scattered at their feet.

“Where’n the fuck is Hanzo? ‘M not leavin’ without him!”

“Jess, please, Genji’s looking for him, they’ll be fine,” Fareeha says, catching Jesse’s arm as he makes a wild swipe.

“Jack leaves people, Reeha, ‘m not lettin’ him leave Hanzo.”

“Jack’s not here,” Fareeha starts. Her frustration is palpable, her voice thin. She’s struggling to force him into the pod without aggravating his injury. Jesse’s starting to hyperventilate and sway, his complexion gray. There’s blood all across his front, smeared onto both Captain Amari and Fareeha, smeared into the cryopod. He needs a transfusion immediately, or he needs to be in stasis. Anything else, and he’ll finish the flight in a body bag.

“Jesse McCree!” Captain Amari snaps, not shouting but not lacking any authority. Jesse’s mouth shuts with an audible click. “Quit this foolishness and lie down. Hanzo’s on board.” Fareeha’s head snaps up to look at the two of them. Genji waves weakly.

“Yes, ma’am,” Jesse says meekly. He lies back without a fight. Fareeha and Captain Amari start pulling off the excess clothing, especially anything with metal, in an attempt to make coming out of cryo less miserable and Angela’s job easier on the other side. Captain Amari wraps his prosthetic so it won’t cause frostbite pressed against his side.

“Hanzo will be there when you get out of surgery, dear, I promise,” Captain Amari says. She injects him with the anesthesia, shuts the lid of the cryopod, and keys in the command to activate it. The indicators flash yellow as it fills with cryoprotectant and perfluorocarbons. She stays leaned over the window until the lights change to a steady green and Jesse is safely suspended and unconscious.

Captain Amari turns away, pressing the back of her hand against her eye and blowing out a long, slow breath. Jesse’s blood is on her gloves, and she gets some on her cheek. Fareeha looks ill, pressing her hand to the lid of the cryopod like she’s rooted there. Reinhardt digs around and finds a biohazard bag and a pack of disinfecting wipes. He hands the wipes to Captain Amari and Fareeha and holds out the open bag. Captain Amari tosses her gloves in without hesitating.

Fareeha tears herself away from the pod to wipe herself off. She attends to the grooves of her armor with a little too much force and all of her attention. Captain Amari puts her hand on her daughter’s shoulder, right where the armor gives way to the under suit, and squeezes once.

“Best get us in the air, dear.”

“Right, Mom.”

Fareeha starts toward the cockpit to begin the initial checks. Reinhardt walks to the cargo hatch and punches the button to raise the door. Genji tries to move Hanzo to a bench, and Captain Amari comes over to help.

She glances over Hanzo—like Genji, she doesn’t seem to find anything she can treat with just a field medic’s kit—and then turns to Genji. She kneels down in front of him and takes his leg in her hands, inspecting it for herself. He’d cut the synthetic nerves to that leg almost immediately. As far as his mind knows his leg stops at the knee again. The neural static, an endless, miserable miasma of false sensation, is worse than the absence of the limb in his opinion.

“It’s a purely electromechanical problem, ma’am,” Genji says. Nothing vital runs that far away from his torso, and all those systems are intact. She frowns. Maybe she just wanted something to do with her hands.

“I’ll notify Winston and Torbjörn to get ready to fabricate a replacement,” she says, setting his leg down. She pats his knee and gets back to her feet. Genji looks back to his brother.

Hanzo’s stopped trembling, but he’s still got that thousand yard stare. Genji reaches out to touch him, but wavers. Hanzo’s unwelcoming of touch, except for Jesse. Now that there’s no pressing reason, Genji’s not sure if it’s a good idea. Genji lets his hand drop back to the seat.

Captain Amari comes back, a small plastic cup, a packet of fortified drink mix from an MRE, and a bottle of water in hand. She hands the plastic cup to Hanzo. Two small round tablets rattle around the bottom.

“Take those,” she says. She glances to Genji. “Potassium iodide. He smells like ozone.”

Hanzo does what she asks without looking at her, like he’s on autopilot. She rips the packet open and dumps it into the bottle of water, shaking it around. She hands that to Hanzo as well, but turns to Genji.

“Make sure he drinks it.”

The Captain goes back across the hold and sits down next to the cryopod, setting her hand on it like she’s steadying it. Steadying herself, maybe. Reinhardt sits beside her. Very gently, he pulls her by the chin so he can wipe the blood from her cheek, then takes her free hand. She shuffles so she’s leaning against him and closes her eye.

The hum of the engines is all the warning they get before Fareeha takes the Orca up. It shudders in the air, climbing steeply. She isn’t wasting any time. The level out at altitude is a little smoother, but only a little. She doesn’t come out of the cockpit, even though by now she could have let the autopilot take over. Either she wants something to do or she’s pushing the Orca faster than the autopilot will allow.

Genji leans back into the seat and closes his eyes. Forces himself to just stop and breathe for a moment. Even as badly as the mission ended, they are leaving with as many people as they brought. He, Jesse, and Hanzo had been able to destroy the servers before they ran into enemy resistance. That was a solid win by Blackwatch reckoning.

“I want to see Jesse,” Hanzo says softly. He doesn’t sound like himself, his voice small and almost timid. Genji twists to put himself between Hanzo and cryopod. He’s not sure exactly how Hanzo would react to seeing it, but it won’t be good.

“Not right now, okay? Angela needs to take care of him first.”

Normally Hanzo would fume and fight about being denied anything, but right now, in the grip of this fugue state, he just lets his gaze fall to the floor between his feet.

“Oh.” Hanzo begins wiping his hands down the side of his pants, the bottle abandoned at his side. There’s still blood under his fingernails and caught in his cuticles. Genji looks around but there’s nothing close enough clean it. Hanzo is staring at his hands when Genji looks back.

“I,” Hanzo starts. “I didn’t hurt him, did I?”

Genji moves so he’s in Hanzo’s line of sight. He places his hands over his brother’s, covering the sight of the dried blood.

“Hanzo, listen to me. You saved our lives.”

Hanzo nods, turns his hands over and clenches them into fists in his lap. Genji can admit to himself that his brother is more a stranger than not. Jesse can tell the difference between Hanzo truly finding calm and merely delaying a breakdown, but Genji still cannot. It rankles him, he ought to be able to tell, but those years they spent under the same roof give him no insight.

Genji retrieves the bottle and places it back in Hanzo’s hands.

“The Captain said to drink it. You might feel better if you do.”

Hanzo lifts it to his lips and obediently empties half the bottle in one go. Genji sits himself back in the jump seat.

It won’t be that long before they get back to the Watchpoint and they can put this behind them. Jesse will be fine once Angela gets to him.  Hanzo will eventually circle back to himself. This will just be a story they tell one day, trying to one up the old soldiers over drinks.

Funny thing, Genji never did quite master the art of convincing himself just by wanting something.