The morning proper brought an early meeting with the elders to report on the night’s events. They did it over breakfast, informal in their haste. Hanzo sat stiffly next to Genji. Each of them had to assure the elders that Jesse had not seen their dragons. Genji’s memories were too sloppy and vague, scrambled by alcohol and shock; he suffered a lecture on his debauchery and its consequences.
Hanzo had to take the lead on the report. He told them what the man had said, about demons and dragons being no use, the threat that there was something else coming. The elders were upset Hanzo had killed him rather than bring him in for interrogation, but their father seemed to trust his assessment that they would have gotten no further information. When they were satisfied that they would no longer need to discuss anything to do with the dragons, Jesse was invited in. He took his seat next to Hanzo, who refused to look at him. Jesse gave his own report, and the elders seemed satisfied enough by its similarity to Hanzo's that they did not press Genji further.
Hanzo thought they might be finished, but it seemed their father had other concerns. “What were you doing in the alley in the first place, Genji?” he asked, and Genji looked away, said nothing. After a beat, he looked at Jesse and Hanzo expectantly.
“Didn’t see much,” Jesse answered. “Seemed to me they were just talkin’.” Hanzo remembered Genji’s shirt and belt undone, pants drooping around his thighs, and he carefully schooled his expression. Talking, indeed.
“They? Who are ‘they’?”
“Some young woman he met there, didn’t catch her name.” Jesse shrugged, smooth and believable, and Sojiro looked at Hanzo, who only nodded.
Their father hummed, suspicious anyway. “Was she involved in this?”
Hanzo answered this time. “No,” he said, and he didn’t know why. “I questioned her, but she was understandably frightened.”
“And you didn’t get her name or think to follow up?” Sojiro’s disappointment was evident in his tone, in the way he raised one thick eyebrow.
“I... no.” He didn’t know why he persisted in the lie, only knew that it seemed important to protect Genji’s pride and important to Jesse that they keep Miki out of this. “I let her leave without asking. It was an oversight on my part. It won’t happen again.” Hanzo received his own lecture on the importance of keeping his head about him, on gathering as much information as possible at all costs. It was easier than Genji’s, at least, if only barely. Takeshi loomed behind his father, smug as he suggested that Hanzo was not yet fit to lead the clan. Hanzo bore it with his jaw clenched, resentment bubbling away under the surface.
They moved on, questioned how the Masuda knew they’d be there at all. It seemed obvious enough that someone on Rin’s side of things had let on, but they couldn’t yet know whether it was deliberate. Rin had seemed surprised that Genji was there, and he’d always been a poor liar. They debated what to do next, how best to deal with the Masuda, who had never before encroached on Shimada territory, had certainly never made such direct threats. It went on for what felt like hours, the only real answers that they needed more information and that the Masuda needed to be reminded of their place.
The rest of Hanzo’s morning went as scheduled. Jesse watched his archery practice again, and Hanzo felt a prickle on the back of his neck and the ache from last night keenly. Jesse’s face was impassive, even bored, but his eyes burned. Between Jesse’s gaze and the nerves and anger from this morning, Hanzo should have been frazzled. Instead, he pushed it all out, each arrow landing perfectly, guided by his need to release all that raged inside him. Jesse watched, then he went on his way as if nothing had changed, came and went as he always did.
After Hanzo broke for lunch, he went to hunt him down. He caught Jesse just outside the garden having a smoke. Jesse looked around warily, then smiled at him, kept his voice quiet when he spoke. “I was lookin’ for you earlier. Must’ve missed you.”
Hanzo preened at that, then plucked the cigarette from Jesse’s mouth and took a drag. Like before, Jesse watched his mouth. Unlike before, Hanzo could admit to the way it made heat curl in his stomach, and he smirked at him. “Do I have something on my face?”
Jesse laughed. “Nah, I just like lookin’ at it.” He took his cigarette back. “How you feelin’ after this mornin’?”
“A little sore,” Hanzo said, and Jesse coughed, choking on smoke.
“I meant the meeting,” he said, and Hanzo blushed. Jesse grinned as he recovered, leered at him. “But I could kiss it and make it better if you want.” Hanzo pulled a face, and Jesse laughed again, drew closer to him. “What, never tried that? You should, at least once. Lemme get my tongue right up—”
“Impudent,” Hanzo called him again, but there was no bite to it this time. His cheeks were on fire, and Jesse was far too close should anyone come looking. Hanzo stole his cigarette again and took a few steps away. “Be quiet.” Jesse only laughed and took out another cigarette, relinquishing this one to Hanzo.
They smoked for a moment in silence. “Cass!” Genji’s voice called quietly, then he poked his head around the corner. Hanzo froze, not yet able to meet his brother’s eye. “Hanzo was right, I can smell your smoke from across the yard! Give me one.”
Jesse rolled his eyes and handed one to Genji. “Ain’t y’all the ones with the money?” he asked as he lit it for him. “Buy your own.”
“Father hates it, and we’ve had enough lectures. Besides, it’s more fun to take yours,” Genji said with a shrug, then he eyed them both. “Did you two finally kiss and make up?”
Jesse coughed again, making a show of waving the smoke in front of his face. Hanzo schooled his face into one of irritation. “Mr. Cassidy and I came to an understanding after his help last night,” he said smoothly. “It was easy to bond over your foolishness.”
Genji sighed, didn’t take the barb as good-naturedly as he might usually. “I just wanted to have some fun.”
“Your fun almost got you killed,” Hanzo snipped back. “With your pants down.”
“And that would’ve been embarrassing for you, right?” Genji snarled, and Hanzo felt the shock of it rock through him. Jesse must have seen the fight brewing, because he started forward, but Hanzo shot his hand out and Jesse went still.
“I would have lost my brother,” Hanzo said, meeting Genji’s eyes. He lowered his voice. “We covered for you. Now stop sulking.”
Genji did not stop sulking, but the fight had gone out of him. He puffed sullenly on his cigarette until Jesse clapped his hands. “Well, now that’s outta the way—” he started, then cut off when both brothers stared him down.
Genji looked at Hanzo, huffed out a sigh. “I’m sorry I made it harder for you,” he said, and Hanzo felt suddenly awkward, as if he were Genji’s father instead of his brother.
“You didn’t,” Hanzo lied. “I’m glad you aren’t dead,” he said more truthfully.
Genji smiled a little at that. “Me too. Who’d keep Cass entertained if I weren’t around?”
Hanzo fought down a blush, but Genji thankfully was looking at Jesse, who laughed easily and clapped a hand down on Genji’s shoulder. “Whatever would I do without you?” Jesse asked, and Hanzo resolutely did not meet his eye.
After Genji left, Jesse eyed Hanzo thoughtfully. He waited, but Jesse said nothing. Finally, Hanzo asked, “What is it?” He worried Jesse would lecture him on how he’d spoken to Genji.
Jesse hummed to himself, then took stock of their surroundings. “Tryin’ to figure out how to ask you what’s next,” he finally answered, voice quiet again.
“You want back in my bed so quickly?” Hanzo asked, teasing. Jesse smiled, but it felt off; Hanzo wondered if he’d said the wrong thing.
“Well, yeah. If you’ll have me,” Jesse said anyway, with a lightness that didn’t fit the tension in his shoulders.
“I’m not opposed.”
Jesse came to his room again that night, snuck past the guards and inside without a hitch, and Hanzo greeted him by pressing him to the door and sucking him off right there. Jesse kissed him after, licked the taste of himself out of Hanzo’s mouth, and they fell into bed for more. Hanzo felt greedy, like he was grasping for things he didn’t deserve. The weight in his chest returned, and so did the fire in his veins. Both left him gasping.
When they were finished, he curled himself around Jesse, tangling their limbs hopelessly together as Hanzo tried to figure out the pressure in his chest. Jesse pet a hand through his hair, fingers carefully working out knots he found along the way. “Can hear you broodin’, darlin’. Got somethin’ on your mind?”
“Was I cruel to Genji?” he asked, because it was the easier thing to discuss.
Jesse hummed thoughtfully, sending a pleasant vibration through his chest. “Don’t know. He did somethin’ stupid, but I think he don’t need to be told that. Never had a brother, so I can’t say I know what it’s like in your shoes.” Hanzo said nothing; he appreciated the honesty, at least, but he wondered if he should feel betrayed that Jesse hadn't instantly taken his side. “I like seein’ you get bossy, though,” he continued, and Hanzo could hear the smile in his voice.
“I was talking to my brother,” Hanzo said, pinching him.
Jesse laughed, squirmed away from his fingers. “Don’t matter who you’re talkin’ to, it’s hot as hell.” Hanzo grumbled and burrowed deeper into the sheets. “You know what it takes to keep up my poker face when I’m listenin’ to you like that?”
Hanzo laughed back. “You want me to boss you around in here?” he asked, trailing fingers over Jesse’s chest. He found a little scar, a pale, smooth little slash in a field of tan skin.
“Wouldn’t be mad about it.” Jesse caught his fingers, dragged them to hold steady over his heart. Hanzo tucked his body closer.
He woke up in the dark to the buzzing sound of Jesse’s alarm. Jesse sighed and stirred under him, and he kissed Hanzo before he left.
Their days went back into a routine. Hanzo didn’t seek Jesse out again, and Jesse let him be, save for the way he watched him at practices, face carefully blank and eyes burning hot. He didn’t ask Hanzo about it, and Hanzo didn’t know how to explain anyway, but Jesse respected the need for privacy. At night he crept in with his shoes in hand like Hanzo had shown him, broke him apart piece by piece, and left while the sky was still dark.
They didn’t always speak much, but gradually Hanzo learned things. Jesse had little formal education, but he picked up languages like a sponge, was fluent in English and Spanish and conversational in more than he could count on one hand. He liked to whisper words against Hanzo’s skin that only he could understand, smirking to himself when Hanzo scowled at him. He learned Jesse liked his scowls too. Jesse told him he’d liked his “snotty” face since the first day, when he’d caught Hanzo sizing him up outside the audience chamber. “Looked like royalty, and I couldn’t figure out if you were checkin’ me out or thinkin’ up ways to kill me.”
Hanzo laughed. “And you liked that?” He tangled a hand in Jesse’s hair, gave a gentle tug that made Jesse’s eyes go heavy-lidded. “Pervert,” he said fondly.
“Been told I got problems with authority,” Jesse said with a laugh, then kissed him breathless.
He learned Jesse could sing, in a pleasant baritone, but he hadn’t played an instrument since he was a teenager. Hanzo himself was embarrassingly tone-deaf, had a voice like a croaking frog, which Jesse naturally found endearing. Jesse liked to sneak treats from the kitchen, which he brought to Hanzo to share. More than the sweets themselves, Hanzo liked to lick the sugar from Jesse’s fingers and mouth until he forgot about the food entirely. He learned that when Jesse left in the mornings, he ran unless the weather was bad. Hanzo teased him that it must be how he worked off the treats, but secretly he wondered where Jesse had developed the discipline. So many of Jesse’s workouts brought to mind Western military movies; Jesse wasn’t especially forthcoming on much of his mercenary work though, so Hanzo didn’t ask.
Hanzo learned the stories behind some of Jesse’s scars, the shallow scrapes and near misses, though he suspected a handful were more of Jesse’s tall tales, the stories too dramatic and the details too vague to be real. He told Hanzo about the desert, about endless blue skies and hot, dusty air. Hanzo would have listened to Jesse describe anything in that tone of voice, with that little smile on his face. Jesse asked about his tattoo, seemed fascinated altogether by the dragon scrolls and paintings throughout the compound. Hanzo told him old tales of dragons and other folklore, carefully steered him away from discussing how real they were. But Hanzo did share other things, told Jesse about his mother, of days when he and Genji were inseparable and never made to compete; most of these were barely recalled now, stitched together from gauzy scraps of memory.
Some nights Jesse turned up much later than usual. Genji had taken to sneaking out again, mostly skulking about the arcade or nearby bars, and it was Jesse’s job to retrieve him. Hanzo didn’t ask how he always found him so quickly, nor did he press on the things Jesse and Genji got up to on these adventures. When he was especially late, he fell into Hanzo’s bed exhausted, pulled him close only to sleep.
He accompanied Hanzo out twice over these weeks. Once they joined his father to oversee some business, and Hanzo watched Jesse loom threateningly, somehow drawing himself up to seem larger than usual. It was all for show in an otherwise uneventful meeting, but those they met with seemed properly intimidated by the Shimadas’ demon, and Hanzo’s father was pleased. Later, Hanzo pinned Jesse’s hands behind his back and fucked him facedown, growling orders into his ear, delighted by his own strength and Jesse’s willing submission.
On the second outing, Jesse followed him as he collected their dues from the local businesses. They enjoyed ramen from the shop nearby, paid as though the owner hadn’t just given Hanzo his monthly fee. He caught Jesse eyeing flowers in a stand down at the market, and he smiled ruefully, suggested that Jesse’s ailing mother might enjoy them and helped Jesse select Hanzo’s favorites, in whites and yellows and a rich, genetically engineered blue. Hanzo had to carry them as if he’d bought them himself, but the whole exchange made Jesse smile in a way that made Hanzo feel strange and weightless. He took Jesse to a boutique, reminded him he’d “lost” his good suit jacket. Jesse smirked and stripped off his shirt for Hanzo while the tailor took his measurements, pretended not to understand the language when the frazzled man insisted Jesse should have kept it on.
It was nothing like a date should have been, but it was enough. When they returned, Hanzo covered by gifting his flowers to Kiyoshi. They ate dinner apart as always, but in his room that night, Jesse brought him daifuku and plum wine he’d snuck from the kitchen, to finish off their date with dessert and drinks. They kissed for what felt like hours, and Jesse again slurred strange, foreign words against his skin, but Hanzo thought he understood the way Jesse looked at him well enough. It made him gasp and look away, the pressure in his chest rendering him immobile.
Without variation, Jesse would wake before dawn to his quietly buzzing phone. He’d kiss Hanzo gently before he left, as if he didn’t know Hanzo was wide awake. Hanzo grew accustomed to watching the sky grow light as he lay alone, chest aching, in sheets that smelled like smoke and sex and Jesse.