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Throwing Stones at the Stars

Chapter Text

Hanzo hurried alongside Genji to the audience chamber. The elders had screened the final candidates for Hanzo and Genji’s new bodyguard, and the two had been summoned for a meeting. Hanzo wondered if they would get to help make the decision, or if they would have no say. At twenty-five, Hanzo at least was increasingly brought into clan decisions, but this one he’d had no part of. It rankled to think he might get no choice at all, but his father had urged him to trust them. As they neared the entrance, they both slowed their pace, and Hanzo’s hands roamed over his clothing to put himself together quickly. Outside the hall waited a single stranger. He stood taller and darker than most of the guards surrounding him, stuck out like a sore thumb with a mess of brown hair and a scruffy face, sideburns far too long. He wore all black and stood insolently, one thumb hooked through his belt loop, as if he cared not at all about the guards around him. Hanzo took in the body armor that covered his chest, the empty gun holster at his belt; he was a mercenary, then. It seemed the final decision had been made without them. 

It itched at Hanzo again. He was so young. Hanzo and Genji had trained all their lives; surely there was not someone their own age who could do a better job protecting them than they could themselves. Yet here this man stood, with his shoulders back, too relaxed, over-confident. He was handsome, too, and that irritated Hanzo more. Hanzo should not disrespect the elders’ decision, but he resented this man’s presence here. He caught Hanzo looking and winked, wide mouth curling into a half smile. Hanzo met him with a flat stare, mouth pressed into a line. It would not do to be impolite if he were the new hire, but he did not have to be welcoming either. The man only smiled at him more, a flash of white teeth. Beside Hanzo, Genji snickered. The guards let Hanzo and Genji pass, and they left the stranger behind.

“Father,” Hanzo said as he bowed. Genji did the same beside him.

“Come sit with me,” their father said.

They did as they were told, and two of the clan elders entered to brief them on the situation. The man outside was Kiyoshi’s choice for the position, but some incident had occurred during the final screening that brought doubts and division among them. It seemed Hanzo might get some say in the matter after all.

Kiyoshi spoke first, folding her wrinkled hands neatly before her. “Mr. Cassidy is quite talented, Shimada-san, and he comes highly recommended.”

“He is a demon,” spat Takeshi. “Insolent, and a liability.” Hanzo hated to agree with Takeshi, but insolent was likely true.

Sojiro waved a hand to silence them both, ending any further squabble. “What did he do?”

Takeshi went first, red rising in his face. “He killed another candidate.”

Kiyoshi sighed. “He shot six bullets faster than I could blink. Five hit dead center on the practice targets. The sixth... it is as Takeshi-san says.”

“Right in the head! With his demonic—”

“With his gun,” Kiyoshi finished in her firm, high voice. “Shimada-san, do not let this old man’s superstitions sway you. He's our best candidate by far. Good enough to protect the heirs.”

“He killed a man within our walls, surrounded by guards and mercenaries, and the man was dead before any of us could react. If he cannot be trusted, who will stop him before he kills all five of us just as quickly?” Takeshi asked. The guards at the door shifted uneasily, but Genji seemed to find it distasteful; Takeshi should not underestimate the dragons so.

Hanzo took it in with some surprise. Kiyoshi, at least, had never been prone to exaggeration, but that sort of accuracy was difficult to believe. If it were true, and if the man could be trusted, even Hanzo might be swayed to overlook his resentful first impression. He looked sidelong at his father, watched him absorb it all.

“Enough,” Sojiro said, voice quiet. “Let him speak for himself, and we will decide what to do with him.” He gestured, and the guard slid the door open, two more ushering in the stranger.

The man looked amused and entirely unbothered to be standing at the heart of their deadly clan. “Shimada-sama,” the stranger said, bowing deeply, if clumsily. The way he said their name set Hanzo’s teeth on edge. Shee-maw-da, too many harsh sounds in a deep drawling voice. American, then. But he had some manners, however poorly executed they were.

Kiyoshi spoke in English. “I introduce Mr. Cassidy, our candidate for the new position.”

“Mr. Cassidy, explain why you killed a guest under my roof," Sojiro said in English as well, in the tone he had tried to teach Hanzo to master. He was quiet, but his voice carried all the heft of their lineage behind it.

Cassidy stood with one hip cocked, seemingly unaffected by the weight of the command. “You want the professional reason or the personal one, sir?” 

“Both.” The way Sojiro's head tilted, only barely perceptible, told Hanzo that his father was more intrigued than he wanted to let on.

“Professional: his working name was Émile Pelletier. I worked a job in Italy a few months back, family hired me to get back their kidnapped daughter. Turns out Émile had been hired as her bodyguard and sold out to a rival family. Didn’t much think you’d appreciate havin’ to hire me in a month when he did the same to one of your sons here.”

Sojiro made a thoughtful sound, gaze sharp on Cassidy. “And the personal reason?”

“He hurt that kid.” He said it evenly, but Hanzo watched his fingers twitch, curling into a fist.

“I see,” Sojiro said slowly. “Mr. Cassidy, surely you are aware of our business. We are not above hurting people, ourselves.”

“Not kids, not like that.” Sojiro paused, then nodded thoughtfully, waved a hand for him to continue. “I done my research. Y’all run guns and got a finger on most of the local businesses. Might rough up the competition from time to time, hire men like me to get our hands dirty. But you keep this city orderly, too, don’t mess around with human trafficking or none of that. And the last time you caught a child molester, you cut off his hands.”

Hanzo sucked in a quiet breath and watched his father sit back — the subtle equivalent. This man knew more than he should. The incident he spoke of had involved a Shimada cousin and had been painstakingly buried. Something about Cassidy’s stance told Hanzo that he knew it, too; he seemed smug, like he’d expected them to be impressed. Sojiro spoke after a moment. “Thank you, Mr. Cassidy. We will see if your story is true.”

“Shimada-san,” Kiyoshi said, continuing only when Sojiro waved her on. “We cannot verify his tale fully. There is no official story of an Italian family’s kidnapped daughter, but there are rumors enough to suggest it. Émile Pelletier had an... unsavory reputation, even for a mercenary, enough that another candidate corroborated Mr. Cassidy’s claims about his character.” 

“Good riddance to this Mr. Pelletier, then. It would seem we have a mercenary with honor,” Sojiro said wryly. He sat quiet for a moment, making a show of his consideration; Hanzo could sense the presence of his father’s dragon, and he wondered what conclusion the spirit came to. “Very well. In the future, while you are under my roof, Mr. Cassidy, you will not dispense your peculiar justice. You await my command.” He paused, staring stonily at Cassidy until the man nodded. “Good. Now tell me: what did you do to frighten Takeshi so?”

Cassidy grinned slowly, a lopsided thing that made Hanzo’s stomach flip. “Oh, that old trick? Turns out you hired the fastest gun in the West and East.”

“I like him,” Genji said afterward, distracting Hanzo from his brooding as he always did.

“I don’t,” said Hanzo. “Takeshi was right. He is insolent.”

"I saw you ogling, brother,” Genji teased.

“I was not ogling.” Hanzo fixed Genji with a murderous look.

“Of course you weren’t,” Genji replied. “A tall, handsome foreigner starts talking about killing with integrity, and my honorable gay brother doesn’t have a single impure thought.”

Hanzo swatted at Genji, who danced quickly out of the way. “Fine. He is nice to look at.” Genji practically cackled. “He is still irritating, though,” Hanzo said too late, well after Genji had already skipped out of earshot.

Hanzo did not see Cassidy again except in passing, across the grounds here and there, for over a week. He somehow stayed at the edge of Hanzo’s awareness though. Hanzo could tell where he’d been by the sound of servant women giggling to themselves, or the clan guards muttering in his wake; they did not usually like mercenaries, and it seemed Cassidy in particular set them on edge. He saw him in the hallways or across the garden, and every time, the man watched him, smiled or winked or, one awful time, tipped an honest-to-goodness cowboy hat at him. Hanzo always scowled and the man always smiled wider.

Now though, it was almost eight o’clock in the morning. Hanzo was early to his regular gym practice, and he heard the sounds of someone already inside. He thought perhaps it was his sensei warming up. When he entered, he instead caught sight of Cassidy, fists pounding rhythmically into an old punching bag someone had dug up so the American could practice his own fighting.

He was shirtless, gleaming with sweat and grunting with his effort. His hits were strong and precise, but his balance was poor; he put too much weight behind each punch, trusted that brute force would do the job on its own. For most enemies, it probably would have; Hanzo had to give him some credit, however begrudgingly. He fought in a style Hanzo could not have named, something halfway between a street brawler and a soldier, but when he brought a knee up to the bag he thought the man might have learned some kickboxing. He tried to focus on taking his measure, counting the steps it would take to defeat him in close combat. He tried, but instead he watched the bunch and stretch of powerful, freckled shoulders. A bead of sweat slid from Cassidy's damp brown hair, dripped down his spine to the dip of his back, and Hanzo's mouth went dry. He cleared his throat.

Cassidy swung around, clearly startled, and for the briefest moment he looked like a predator ready to pounce. Then his stance eased, loose and relaxed enough that it made Hanzo doubt what he had just seen. “Shimada-san,” he said, smiling much too widely.

Hanzo spoke in English; as far as anyone could tell, Cassidy’s Japanese was limited to saying hello and thank you. “I apologize for interrupting, Mr. Cassidy. I am early for my training.”

“Ah, shit. Tuesday mornin’s I gotta be outta here by eight. I knew that.” Cassidy reached for a towel, wiping down his neck and gleaming chest. Hanzo kept his eyes carefully trained on his face. “Still learnin’ your schedule so I don’t disrupt... whatever it is you do with your day,” he said by way of apology.

Hanzo said nothing, watching while Cassidy flung the towel over one shoulder and his damp, discarded shirt over the other. “I’ll get outta your hair now, Shimada-san,” he said as he passed Hanzo. He stopped close, though, close enough that Hanzo could smell the clean sweat on him. “Unless...”


“Unless you want a sparrin’ partner? Been ages since I went toe-to-toe just for fun, and it’d be good to know how much protectin’ you really need.”

Hanzo looked at him appraisingly, took in the flushed face, damp hair clinging to his cheeks, the glaze in his honey-colored eyes. He smirked. “I have already seen your form, and you lack the stamina. Trust that I would hand you your ass.”

Cassidy laughed then, loud and surprised. “Not gonna ask how you came by that particular idiom,” he said finally. “I’ll show myself out then, Shimada-san.”

Hanzo spoke again before he could stop himself. “Just Hanzo, Mr. Cassidy.”

“Hanzo then.” Hanzo tried not to flinch at the way his name clanged around in Cassidy’s mouth: Hawn-soh.

“And you?”

“First name’s Wayne. But most folks call me Cassidy, or Cass. Drop the mister though, I’m beggin’ you.”

He did his best not to make a face. “Wayne Cassidy? That does not suit you at all.”

“Take it up with my mama, I dare you,” he said, laughing as he made his way to the exit. “See ya ’round, Hanzo.”

Hanzo followed the faint smell of cigarettes. It trailed down from the roof near the cliffside, from his and Genji’s old hiding spot. If he listened, he could hear faint voices, Genji’s laugh. He double-checked that nobody was watching. Then he pulled himself up the wall, shimmied around the eaves and onto the red rooftop, where he startled Genji and Cassidy.

“Fuckin’ ninjas,” Cassidy spluttered around a mouthful of smoke.

Genji recovered with more grace, though he looked at his brother warily. “Hanzo, come to join us?”

Hanzo grunted, then reached for Genji’s cigarette. “Share.” Genji did, and Hanzo took a long drag, eyes half closed. Both watched him, but Cassidy watched his mouth in particular. It made a part of Hanzo want to preen at the attention; he did his best to ignore it. “You skipped archery today,” he said to Genji after a moment. “I was sent to find you.”

Cassidy looked back and forth between them, then away, retreating into his cigarette. Genji sighed. “Are you going to drag me back?”

“No.” Genji looked grateful at that. “But your smoke travels,” Hanzo said dryly as he took another drag. “Someone else will catch you here, and you’ll give away our best hiding spot. It would be a shame to lose this one, too.” He looked pointedly at Cassidy, then, hoping the man would keep this to himself.

Genji grinned. “Just because they can find it doesn’t mean they can get up here. Cass almost broke his neck even after I showed him all the footholds.” When Hanzo only stared, Genji became serious again. “So you came to tell me to... find a new smoking section?”

Hanzo snorted, then he nodded. “On the north end of the garden, the guards smoke there. Nobody would think twice about the smell.” He handed Genji back his cigarette. Genji finished it, then flicked the burning end off, handed the rest to Cassidy. Cassidy stubbed his out and stuffed the butts into his pocket. “I have to go. Don’t let our clumsy American die getting back down.”

“Wait,” Genji said, grabbing at his sleeve. He glanced at Cassidy, then back at Hanzo, a familiar smile slipping into place. Hanzo braced himself; Genji had a scheme. “Cass and I were discussing how much we’d like to go dancing.” Hanzo raised an eyebrow at that.

“Genji wants to go dancin’, I wanna keep him safe and keep my job,” Cassidy clarified.

“And dance and drink with pretty girls,” Genji insisted. “Or boys,” he added, obviously watching for Cassidy’s reaction. He only smiled serenely. “Anyway, Hanzo, if you come—”

“I will not,” Hanzo said. “One of us has to work for the family.” His tone was sharp, sharper than he intended, and Genji’s face fell.

There was a brief quiet, then Cassidy spoke, sounding slow, maybe even cautious. “Way Genji explained it to me, he makes friends with some of the younger crowd from other families, you do business with the friends he makes.”

“I know. Genji gets to dance and pretend it’s business, I get to do business and pretend it’s dancing,” Hanzo said. “He has proposed this before.”

“I’m sure, darlin’. But it seems like you joinin’ us will lend legitimacy to the whole thing. And this time I’ll be around to blend in and protect you both.”

“You will not blend,” Hanzo said with a snort. Cassidy looked taken aback. “I don't mean that unkindly,” he added, waving a hand at Cassidy’s appearance. At least today he wasn’t wearing the hat. “Only that foreigners stand out.”

Genji finally spoke again. “Right, we use that. You can be my new favorite tourist! Or,” Genji said slyly, “Hanzo’s mysterious American boyfriend.”

Hanzo gave him a withering look. “Do you want me to agree to this or not, Genji?” Genji quieted but would not stop smiling; he knew he was winning this fight. Hanzo sighed and fixed Cassidy with a stern look. “Why do you care?”

“I know what it’s like to be bored and chompin’ at the bit for some fun.”

“So do we all. That doesn’t mean Genji gets his way. You work for the clan, not for him. Nor for me.”

Cassidy looked at him thoughtfully. “There’s a difference?”

“Of course,” Hanzo said.

Cassidy sighed, chewed his lip. “I’m just goin’ along to keep an eye on him. I expect he’d find a way to go without us sooner or later.” Genji preened at that. “And I might wanna see you dressed up to go dancin’,” he tacked on, exaggerating his usual wink at Hanzo.

Hanzo flushed, pressed his mouth into a harsh line while Genji yelped out a laugh. Cassidy was smiling at him, that wide, lopsided smile with too many teeth, his stupid gold earring glinting in the sunlight, and Hanzo couldn’t find words for a moment.

Finally he spoke, schooling his face to a carefully neutral expression. “Genji, did you know his first name is Wayne?” Genji howled at that, shouted a drawn-out “no!”

Wayne Cassidy? There is no way that’s your real name, cowboy!” Genji cackled, and Hanzo took the moment to slip down off the roof.

Hanzo stepped back from Genji’s blade, holding his own steady across his body. He adjusted his hands carefully, sweating palms catching and slipping on the grip. He feinted left then took a quick swipe; Genji danced away just in time. So it had gone for what felt like ages. Genji was a hair quicker, more agile, harder to predict; Hanzo was that small bit stronger, with more stamina and far more discipline. He could see he was wearing Genji down. He had missed too many practice sessions too many times; Hanzo felt the resentment bubbling inside him, and he let it ride his blade, sharpen his focus.

They circled one another, then Genji came at him. Hanzo stepped in quick and close, knocked Genji’s sword arm wide, and in a swift sweep of Hanzo’s blade, Genji’s own skittered across the floor. Hanzo stepped in again, one hand tight on his brother’s collar, and the other thrust his blade up. Genji’s eyes went wide.

They hung there, frozen, until a sharp clap ended their bout. As he withdrew, Hanzo slid his practice blade roughly along Genji’s side, a reminder of who had won again. Genji scowled, pulling roughly away. They both turned to their father, bowing deeply.

“Well done, Hanzo, as always,” their father said. Hanzo stood fully, put his shoulders back. He was exhausted, sweating, but he refused to let it show. Genji had no such compunctions; he slouched and panted, scowling at the floor. Genji hated these sessions most of all, Hanzo knew. Today was especially grating. All six elders had made an appearance. Cassidy was there too, watching with an unreadable expression. The entirety of the clan’s leadership and Genji's new friend had watched Hanzo best him. Hanzo would have hated it too, had their roles been reversed. Even as the winner he felt little satisfaction, itching only to be done.

“Hanzo, your critique?” his father asked, and Hanzo forced his face to remain neutral, to keep from flinching. This was the part he hated. At best, Genji would avoid him for the rest of the day; at worst, he would be rude for weeks. 

“Genji overextended himself. I saw his energy flagging, and I waited until he got impatient and clumsy. He stepped too wide and gave me the opening to disarm him. My final strike would have disemboweled him,” Hanzo said, reporting the details as blandly as possible. “For myself, I missed an earlier opportunity to do the same. I fell for Genji’s feints twice, and I let myself become unbalanced. The fight should have ended ten minutes sooner.” He braced himself then, prepared his gambit. He had not discussed this with Genji, but he hoped it would earn his forgiveness. “Father, if I may ask a favor as the victor.”

Sojiro looked briefly surprised, then waved his hand for Hanzo to continue. 

“Genji lost because he has not kept up with his practice as I have.” Genji grumbled quietly beside him. “But I should have done better against a less practiced foe.” That silenced his brother, and he felt more than saw him perk up, catching on that Hanzo had a plan. “I believe he and I could both use a break from our typical duties to refresh ourselves. Perhaps a night out.”

Their father smirked back at Hanzo, the tiniest quirk of his lips. “This hardly sounds like your idea,” he said, staring pointedly at Genji. Hanzo felt his cheeks heat up at that. 

“It is for both of us,” he said haltingly, aware of how unconvincing he surely sounded. “I am happy to pursue clan interests while we are out.” When his father only looked at him, he failed to stop his mouth. “And it would be a low stakes time to test our new bodyguard’s capabilties.”

The tiny smirk that had been forming on Sojiro’s lips grew a little at that. Their father liked when Hanzo showed a head for strategy for the clan; it made the elders happy, made their father's indulgences easier. “Do you agree, Genji? Does our Sparrow need to spread his wings in order to better commit to his practice?” Genji nodded quickly but smartly kept his mouth shut. Sojiro switched to English. “Mr. Cassidy, are you amenable to escorting my sons for a night on the town?”


After the elders had all filed out, Genji punched Hanzo on the shoulder. 

“You did it! I’ll make a scoundrel of you yet, brother,” Genji said excitedly, though his voice stayed low in the echoing room. “You should have told me your plan, though.” 

Hanzo sighed. “If you stopped dodging practice, you might actually win one,” he said in return as he gathered up both their blades. As the winner, it seemed more sporting than to leave them for Genji. Besides, Genji didn't care enough, would likely leave it to a servant.

“Y’all wanna tell me what just happened?” Cassidy’s deep voice rang through the dojo. 

Genji laughed, calling back in English. “Hanzo won us a night on the town. All he had to do was disembowel his own brother!”

Cassidy moved closer to Hanzo, pitched his voice lower. “That how you get to do anything fun around here? Gotta win a dogfight for your gang?” His smile seemed less open than usual, and something dark lurked behind his easy tone.

Hanzo looked at him, scowling. “You overstep with your impudent question. Look at your schedule, Mr. Cassidy. The elders look in on our progress once a month. It is only that Father is more willing to grant favors when he is pleased.” Cassidy stepped back, although he didn't look properly chastised. 

“Don’t mind him,” Genji said as he passed Cassidy. “He’s always an asshole when he has to break a sweat to kill me.” Genji took his leave then, likely predicting the lecture Hanzo was already preparing.

Cassidy remained though, looking thoughtful. “I... you’re right. It was a dumb question.”

“Think nothing of it,” Hanzo said tersely as he put away the practice swords.

“Nah, I offended you, and I owe you an apology. It’s just... I’ve seen enough gang life to know that it ain’t always a big, happy family,” Cassidy continued, ruffling his mop of hair with a big hand. It made Hanzo’s hands itch to tidy his own.

Hanzo sighed. “I accept your apology. Your concern is appreciated, but unnecessary.” He gave in to the urge to fix his hair, shook it loose before he pulled it back again, Cassidy’s eyes on him the whole time.

“Right, uh.” Cassidy cleared his throat. “You were real impressive out there though.”

Hanzo’s mouth set into a firm line again, but he couldn’t stop himself. “Is that so?” He looked up at him, resenting the way Cassidy seemed to tower over him. 

“Yeah, never seen anybody fight like that outside of a movie or somethin’.” 

It was stupid, Hanzo thought, that this foreigner’s clumsy awe should make him feel so pleased. Stupid that he was intrigued by what Cassidy had seen before. He looked at the tattoo on Cassidy’s bare forearm, and he reached out to grab him without thinking, thumb tracing the faded lines of the skull and wings. “You have seen these ‘dogfights’ you mentioned, though?” He read the tattoo, Deadlock Rebels. He had seen the like before, although yakuza tattoos were often far more elaborate than this. “Were you in a gang?”

Cassidy went still, for the first time seeming uncertain. He laughed it off quickly. “Ah, darlin’, first rule of mercenary work: give nothin’ away for free. You wanna ask questions, you gotta pay.”

“Does my family not pay you enough?” Hanzo asked, still looking up at him.

“They’re generous, I assure you. But you told me I work for them, not for you.” Cassidy was smirking now, and standing much too close to him. Hanzo felt too warm, uncertain what to do with the way Cassidy managed to irritate him and set his pulse racing at the same time. He was far too aware of the way Cassidy’s skin burned under his fingers, and he pulled his hand away, trying to put some distance between them.

“What payment must you want?”

Cassidy made a big show of thinking hard, as if he were not already three steps ahead in this silly game. He ducked his head down a little, creeping into Hanzo’s space. “How ’bout... for every answer I give, you pay me with a kiss?”

Time froze for a moment. Hanzo was not an idiot; he’d known Cassidy was flirting, known he was flirting back. He remembered watching him, sweat-drenched and shirtless. But Cassidy said it aloud, made it too real, and Hanzo felt a heaviness burrow into his chest. 

“Impudent,” he growled again, pushing Cassidy away from him and backing up. He thought of the way the servant women giggled in Cassidy’s wake, thought of the jobs he must have worked before and the certainty he expressed with his flirtation. How many beds had he wormed his way into on the job? “Stop this,” he said, and Cassidy backed away from him too, a strange look on his face. 

“Right, too far,” he said, much too easily to be believed. “Stop, uh, which part, exactly?”

“All of it,” Hanzo huffed, frustrated. “I am not your darlin’. Stop your flirting and... and winking. You are an employee. Act like it.”

“Right, boss. You’re right, of course.” Hurt. The look on Cassidy’s face was hurt. He patched over it quickly, schooled his expression into something more neutral. “I’ll get back to mindin’ my own business now,” he said, and Hanzo only turned his back on him, waited for him to leave. It took a long time for the heavy weight to fade from Hanzo’s chest, no matter how hard he rubbed.

Chapter Text

True to his word, Cassidy left Hanzo alone as much as he could. When Hanzo met his eye across the grounds now, Cassidy would nod or give him a tight thin-lipped smile. Nothing like the winks and slow, lopsided smiles from before.

Of course Cassidy could not give him as much space as he wanted. Now that he’d acclimated to clan life, he was required to watch Hanzo and Genji practice, to get a feel for their abilities in order to better perform his own duties. Hanzo did his best to ignore him and focus, but it was difficult to pretend he was unaffected; his aim was just that little bit worse when he knew Cassidy was watching. Hanzo’s distraction only distracted him further, and he spiraled until Kiyoshi finally stopped their archery practice short, suggesting that their upcoming night out may be a better idea than she’d thought.

Outside of his practices, Cassidy did not go out of his way to be near him, and they did not speak again until the night out.

Hanzo met Genji by the car, a sleek black thing that hovered inside the compound, surrounded by guards. Several guards waited on hoverbikes, ready to follow discreetly. The driver opened the door for them, and Genji climbed in, grumbling all the while. Hanzo followed him in. 

“Where is he?” Genji complained. “Cass should be here by now.”

“I’m sure he’ll be here,” Hanzo said coolly, adjusting his suit jacket. 

Sure enough, Cassidy slid into the seat across from them after a few moments, looking irritable.

“What took you so long? I’m ready to go!” Genji teased, sliding across the car to sit by Cassidy. 

“Had a disagreement about my belt,” Cassidy said, explaining nothing at all.

Hanzo looked him over. He had tidied up the scruff on his face, and he wore all black again, but this time it was a trim suit, the jacket just large enough to obscure the bulge of his gun holster. Hanzo had to admit he cleaned up nicely. Cassidy saw him looking, then glanced down to fuss with his sleeves.

“Not accustomed to dressing with style, Mr. Cassidy?” Hanzo asked.

“I got my own style,” Cassidy mumbled, smoothing his hands over his knees before looking out the dark window, anywhere but at Hanzo. 

Genji looked between them, then directly at Hanzo. “What did you do?”  he asked in Japanese. “He wasn’t like this before.” 

Nothing.” When Genji leveled him with a knowing stare, Hanzo sighed. “I told him I didn’t like his flirting. 

“You lied to him? How rude.”

Hanzo tensed at Genji’s sly smile, and he said nothing else, sure that any answer at all would only result in more teasing. Genji only grinned at his silence, then turned to Cassidy. “So Cass, you’re basically a cowboy, right? Can you ride a horse? Hanzo and I used to watch so many old Westerns, and I have questions.” Cassidy turned to Genji, lips twitching into a smile. Hanzo pinched the bridge of his nose, tuning them both out and settling in for a surely interminable car ride.

They arrived at the nightclub in one piece, and Hanzo managed to avoid a headache listening to Cassidy spin a tale to Genji about racing through the desert on horseback, fleeing from the law. It was obviously a lie, a tall tale pieced together from a dozen different movies, and Genji delighted in every moment of it. They made their way from the car to the club’s side entrance, avoiding the long line of partygoers to enter immediately. 

Inside, a pretty young woman led them to a table upstairs out of the press of the crowd, where Genji insisted on a round of shots alongside their drink orders. Hanzo already hated the place, hated the feel of being surrounded. He pressed himself into the booth, back against the wall so he could see the crowd. Cassidy slid in beside him, but kept space between them; Hanzo wanted to resent it, then realized their bodyguard needed to put his back to the wall too. Genji sat facing them both, practically vibrating while they waited for their drinks.

Cassidy fixed Genji with a stare, face and voice suddenly stern. “Every twenty minutes,” he said, barely audible over the din.

Genji rolled his eyes in an exaggerated sigh. “Don’t get so serious on me now, Cass! You’re supposed to be fun!”

Cassidy huffed out a laugh, but he kept his eyes on Genji. “Show me I can trust you to let me do my job, and you can have all the fun you want. I’ll even hold your hair when you’re pukin’ later. Repeat it back now,” he said firmly.

“Every twenty minutes,” Genji said dutifully, looking as though it pained him.

“Same for you,” Cassidy said, looking directly at Hanzo for the first time in days. “Not that you need mindin’ like he does. But this place is too big for me to watch you if you both leave this table—”

“I'll check in with you,” he promised, though he had no intentions of leaving. The crowd made his skin crawl even here on the outskirts. The dragons were awake under his skin, responding to Hanzo’s wariness.

Cassidy nodded, then fiddled with his phone until their drinks came. Genji shouted out his thanks to their server, and he pressed a shot glass into Hanzo’s hand. He tried to do the same to Cassidy, who pushed his gently back to the center of the table. “On the clock,” he said, though it did not stop him from raising his beer, still in the bottle, to clink against their shots. 

Genji shoved the abandoned shot at Hanzo. “You take this. Loosen up. I’m going downstairs!”

Hanzo scowled as Genji abandoned them so quickly. He looked sidelong at Cassidy, mouth feeling dry. He took the shot, followed it with a sip of the whiskey he’d ordered. Cassidy fortunately did not try to speak to him; he was too busy looking back and forth from his phone to their surroundings. They sat in silence for a few minutes until it stretched too thin. A glance at Cassidy's phone told Hanzo that he was watching a timer he’d labeled with a G, counting down the minutes until Genji got back.

Hanzo wondered if this was how it would go: Cassidy watching the clock and Hanzo pretending not to watch him do it. He sipped at his drink, silently urging the minutes to go by faster. At exactly one minute after ten o'clock, Cassidy broke the silence. “Your friend’s late.”

“You didn’t strike me as a stickler for punctuality,” Hanzo said. It was only a way to pass the time, but it was certainly better than their uneasy silence.

Cassidy gave him a sidelong look, considering. “Not always, but if you say you’re gonna be there, you should be there. Y’all had an agreement, and he ain’t honoring it.”

Hanzo hummed to himself. Here was this mercenary, a murderer, going on about honor and duty again. But Hanzo’s hands weren’t any cleaner, and he knew a great deal about honor and duty. “Rin does things his own way. I knew he’d be late.”

Cassidy looked at him again but said nothing. Genji returned to the table a few minutes before his timer ran out. He had a young woman on his arm, pretty and tiny in a tinier green dress, nearly the same shade as Genji’s hair. “Here we are! This charming young woman is Miki. Miki, this is my brother Hanzo and our friend Cass.”

Hanzo only nodded, but Cassidy smiled at her. “Pleasure to meet you,” he said in English.

She giggled at them, then at Genji. “They’re handsome! You must be very confident to introduce me to them.

Genji gasped in mock offense. “More handsome than me? No way. Besides, Hanzo’s no fun and Cass can’t understand you. He’ll never know how funny you are!” She laughed at him again. Genji ushered her away to dance, and Cassidy reset his timer. Genji rolled his eyes at him over Miki’s shoulder.

“Huh,” Cassidy said beside him. “Honestly wasn’t sure he’d listen.”

Hanzo sighed, then finally looked at him directly. “He likes you, and he knows you’re trying to play fair. He’ll listen to you until he thinks you aren’t on his side any more.”

Cassidy nodded, took a thoughtful sip of his drink. Hanzo thought about saying more, perhaps apologizing for his harshness before. But the silence went on, and he pushed it aside.

Hanzo!” a voice called out, and he turned to see Rin approaching. Rin was tall, almost as tall as Cassidy, lean and sharp in a tailored suit. He slid into Genji’s seat across from them without invitation, an older man standing behind him. “Hanzo, it’s been so long!” He grinned, a wide sharp-toothed thing.

Hanzo smiled cautiously back. “Yes, well. You know how the business goes.

Hey, old man, get us some drinks, yeah?” Rin said to his chaperone, and Hanzo remembered then how quickly his charm wore off. He turned back to Hanzo, then gestured at Cassidy. “What do you want?

When Cassidy only looked at him, an apologetic smile on his face, Hanzo said, “Whiskey for me. He doesn’t speak Japanese. Or need a drink.

Ah. Bodyguard?

Yes.” There was no point in lying. Rin knew the Shimadas and what they were about.

He let out a little huff, eyed Cassidy up and down. “Wish mine looked like that! He doesn’t speak Japanese?

No,” Hanzo said slowly, sure this was going somewhere he wouldn’t like.

Hey!” Rin said, leaning toward Cassidy and snapping his fingers. “I want to suck your dick. I bet it’s huge.” When Cassidy only looked placidly at him, an apologetic little smile on his face, Rin laughed. “Or I could watch Hanzo do it. I’m not picky.

Don’t be obscene,” Hanzo snapped at him, face flushing. “I still know what you’re saying.

Rin tsked at him but sat back in his chair. “You’re no fun these days. You used to like when I was obscene.” Rin said it with a smirk, and Hanzo remembered how his younger self would have jumped to reassure him how fun he could be. Now, though, he found him tiresome.

We’re here for business,” Hanzo reminded him.

And that’s all?” Rin asked with a little pout. Hanzo eyed him, unimpressed. “And here I thought you’d called me for old times’ sake.” When his quick smile got nothing out of Hanzo, he sighed and sat back again. “Fine. Business it is.

Hanzo snorted, and Rin’s bodyguard returned with a drink for each of them. “We heard your family means to open another new storefront.

We do,” Rin said.

So things are going well?

Yes. We’re thinking of going international, maybe opening up a store in Hong Kong in the next few years.

Hanzo nodded. It was all very predictable. Low stakes, he’d promised his father, and this was as low stakes as it got. “We know one of your investors is backing out, and we’d like to take over their shares.

Rin hummed like it was a hard decision. “You aren’t the only ones to show interest,” he started.

Ah, but we are the ones who’ve helped out your family before. Surely our generosity is worth some loyalty.

Rin looked him over. “I’m sure it is. I’ll have to confirm it with my father, but I’m sure he’ll be pleased to have you on board.” They drank together, the matter settled as easily as that. It could have been handled with a phone call, but Genji had wanted his night out. Then he asked, “Is that really all?” He looked at Hanzo then, looking more vulnerable than he typically did. He expected some answer, and Hanzo couldn’t give him the one he wanted.

Yes,” Hanzo said after a moment.

Rin sighed and downed his drink, stood up too quickly. “Alright. Well, for the record. I know your family has... expectations. But I do kind of miss you, you grumpy bastard.” He looked at Hanzo fondly; it looked good on him, softened up all his sharp features. “If you change your mind, want to dance with me, I’ll be downstairs.” Hanzo nodded, but he didn’t move from his seat.

He sat quietly sipping at his drink, stuck in years-old memories of the things he and Rin had gotten up to, before his family had begun to push him harder toward his duties and away from pretty young men. Cassidy interrupted his thoughts. “That went... well? It was fast.”

“Asking was only a formality. It’s all but done,” Hanzo told him truthfully. “They owe us.”

Cassidy hummed. “And they sent that guy to do the deal?”

Hanzo looked sideways at him. “My family sent me.”

“Right, but you’re... you.” He gestured helplessly, and Hanzo didn’t know whether to consider it a compliment or take offense. “He was a bit much.”

Hanzo snorted, then looked at him again, a suspicion striking him. “How much did you understand?”

Cassidy grinned suddenly, into the same beer he’d been nursing all night. “Enough that he’d be embarrassed if he had any sense at all.” Hanzo couldn’t help himself. He laughed, though his cheeks went warm. “Don’t have to know the language to know what he wanted, anyway,” Cassidy said, and Hanzo’s cheeks grew hotter. “Lemme guess: ex-boyfriend?”

“Close enough,” Hanzo admitted, then swallowed the rest of his drink. Boyfriend was certainly pushing it, but he wasn’t going to detail his sex life for Cassidy.

Cassidy checked his phone again with a funny look on his face, then he sighed. “Genji’s late. You wanna come look for him, or stay here where I can find you again?”

Something made Hanzo itch, woke the dragons up again to squirm against his skin. “I’ll come with you.”

They surveyed the floor they were on quickly; Genji’s shock of green hair was nowhere to be found in the groups of people around the booths. Downstairs, they wove through a sweaty throng of people. Bodies and hands pressed close to Hanzo over and over, made his nerves spike sharply. He could see Cassidy ahead of him, peering over heads where he could and carefully prying fingers off himself.

Rin found Hanzo in the crowd, though his expectant smile melted quickly at whatever he saw on Hanzo’s face. Hanzo dragged him close, had to shout to be heard. “Have you seen Genji?

He’s here?” Rin shouted back, and Hanzo shook his head. The back of his neck prickled, and he could feel his hands sweating. He turned to look for Cassidy, but he’d lost him in the crowd too. He pulled Rin to the side off the dance floor, eyes scanning wildly for either Cassidy or Genji. “I’m sure he’s fine, probably just in the bathroom.

Hanzo shook his head again, the dragons rumbling and writhing under his skin. They knew something was wrong. He felt a big hand on his arm, and Cassidy was right there. “Jesus, thought I’d lost you too. C’mon, someone said he went out this way.” Hanzo let himself be dragged along the edge of the crowd. Before him, Cassidy’s body was one long, tense line. He felt it too, whatever it was.

Cassidy pulled him outside, a side exit to an alleyway, where they found Genji, pants down, at gun point. Two of the men facing Genji turned, trained their guns on Hanzo and Cassidy. “Two for one!” One of them laughed. “Boss’ll be happy about this.

Hanzo stood carefully, calculating what he could in the seconds he had. He was buzzed, he knew, and Genji had to be utterly drunk. There were only the three of them against six gunmen, Genji unarmed. Genji’s date was on her knees beside him, crying into her hands. He sneered at their attackers, and the dragons writhed, ready to leap at his command, the consequences of Cassidy and this girl seeing them be damned. But Cassidy moved quickly away from him, distracting Hanzo and one of their attackers, his gun wavering between Hanzo and Cassidy. The air grew indescribably hot and dry, so hot it was hard to breathe. Cassidy seemed to gleam in the dim streetlight. Hanzo tasted blood and dirt in his mouth, and the dragons thrashed inside of him, and six bodies crumpled to the ground.

Hanzo stumbled on nothing at all, the sound of gunfire echoing in his ears, the dragons and his own pulse screaming inside of him, but their enemies had already fallen. He looked at Cassidy, who had a ferocious look on his face, the same predator stance Hanzo had seen only hinted at in the gym. One of his eyes glinted red, but surely it was a strange trick of the light, of Hanzo’s own shock.

A low groan broke him from his daze. He looked over to find Genji stuffing his shirt back into his pants, crouching next to Miki beside him. One of the gunmen lay groaning, clutching his bloodied hand. Cassidy moved toward him at the same time as Hanzo. “Left one for you to question if you want, boss.”

Hanzo wanted to take his time to marvel at it all. Five men dead, clean shots to the head, and one left with his gun hand useless. Faster than I could blink, he remembered Kiyoshi saying. He wanted to process it, but there was work to be done.

Hanzo kicked the man’s gun farther away, crouched down next to him. Wordlessly, he shoved the man’s sleeve up. Masuda clan. “What were you doing here?” Hanzo asked him. The Masuda weren’t rivals, didn’t even operate near Hanamura.

Keep the demon away from me,” the man hissed, eyes huge and panicked. Hanzo waved Cassidy away, watched him move to check the other bodies.

I will let him eat you if I wish. Tell me why you’re here.” The man spat in Hanzo's face. He only wiped it off, then reached for the man’s bloody hand, gripped it tight until the man let out a whimper, then a yelp. “Tell me.

The Shimadas are too proud. Your demon and dragons will be no use against what’s coming,” the man snarled, having found some bravery. He shouted when Hanzo ground a finger into his wound, but he said nothing else.

Hanzo took out his own gun, let the metal rest between the man’s eyes. “Tell me,” he said again.

Fuck you and your dem—” his words cut off with the sound of Hanzo’s gunfire. He slumped to the ground, and Hanzo wiped his hand and gun clean on the man’s shirt.

He stood and turned, gun trained on Miki. She started crying again, and Genji looked sharply at Hanzo, but Cassidy seemed unsurprised. “Were you part of this?

Genji put himself between Hanzo and Miki, and she clutched at him, bawling. “I’m sorry,” she babbled, then said it again in English, eyes pleading at Cassidy. He moved toward Hanzo, hands empty and palms up until he got close.

“Lemme handle this,” he said quietly, his grip on Hanzo’s wrist surprisingly gentle. Hanzo nodded, and Cassidy turned, moved past Genji to speak quietly with her.

In broken English, she told him that the Masuda owned the brothel she worked for, had approached her, given her the dress and the order to get Genji alone and vulnerable. She swore up and down that she hadn’t known they wanted to hurt him, that she hadn’t had a choice. When it was over, Cassidy pulled a billfold out of his back pocket, handed her the entire thing along with his suit jacket. “Get outta this city,” he told her. “I dunno what’s next, but I’m bettin’ you don’t wanna be anywhere near it, sweetheart.”

They let her go, at Cassidy’s insistence, and followed him back around the club and to the car. “The hell was that guy sayin’?” Cassidy asked Hanzo.

“I thought you understood well enough.”

“Dunno that much, but I keep hearin’ that one thrown around.”

Hanzo looked at him, remembered the taste of blood and dirt, the oppressive dry heat, the red gleam in Cassidy’s eye. He thought of the way the dragons had thrashed to be released, how they still purred under his skin even now. “He called you a demon,” he said.

Chapter Text

The ride back to the compound was quiet. Hanzo had expected Genji to buzz about with questions, but his brother was uncharacteristically still, even sullen, until he finally dozed off. Genji had always tried to distance himself from clan business, the uglier side especially, but his moody silence was new. The event had shaken him in ways Hanzo could not fully understand.

Hanzo tried to think over what had happened. It was all too quick to be real, felt wrong in ways that Hanzo couldn’t explain. He thought about his own hesitation, about the way he’d stopped breathing, the crackle in the air and Cassidy’s rapid gunfire. The dragon spirits rolled beneath his skin, practically purring any time Hanzo dared to remember the taste of blood in his mouth or the way Cassidy’s eye glinted red in the light. He wondered how long it would be until they let him sleep.

Hanzo watched Cassidy, who kept his eyes closed and seemed to focus on his breathing. It was almost like meditating, but he was too tense for it, hands clenched white-knuckled in the fabric over his thighs, like he too had dragons churning beneath his skin, barely contained. Hanzo wondered how all Cassidy’s pieces fit, how his impertinence and incorrigible flirting fit together with his stern businesslike exchange with Genji in the club, how it made any sense at all that he’d killed five men without a thought but given away his money and coat to a prostitute who’d sold them out. Twice, Cassidy opened his eyes to catch Hanzo studying him. Their gazes met in the brief flashes of passing streetlights and the dragons purred, then Cassidy shut his eyes again, went back to his focused breathing.

The car finally slid back into the lot, and a guard opened the door for them. To his surprise, there were only guards — no elders, no father. Hanzo looked around him again until Cassidy spoke up. “They know what happened. Suggested you and Genji might need a good night’s sleep before we give the full report, though.” His deep voice rumbled behind Hanzo, too close, but Hanzo didn’t move.

“That was… thoughtful of you. Thank you,” he said.

“Yes, thank you,” Genji mumbled. He said nothing else as he left them, and Hanzo let him go. 

Cassidy seemed ready to break off on his own, too, but Hanzo grabbed his sleeve. He stopped short in his tracks, body tensed. “May we speak?” Hanzo asked quietly, mindful of the guards still nearby. “Perhaps while we walk?” he added, voice barely audible. Cassidy nodded and kept pace with him.

Hanzo felt at odds with himself; coming down from the drink and the adrenaline rush, with dragons roiling restlessly, his body felt too hot, skin too tight. It only got worse when he tried to look at Cassidy. He clenched his teeth and led them to a small alcove by the garden, out of sight and downwind from the guards.

He could barely see Cassidy in the darkness, and that made it easier. “Thank you,” he said. “If you hadn’t been there, or if it had been someone else, I don’t know what might have happened.”

Cassidy looked at him, restless and guarded at once. “Just doin’ my job,” he said carefully. When Hanzo said nothing else, he asked, “Is that all?”

“No,” Hanzo said too quickly. He felt his face heat up. He cleared his throat, pressing on. “I owe you an apology. For earlier. When I…” he trailed off, waving his hand lamely. 

“Ain’t gotta apologize for settin’ boundaries,” Cassidy said, still unreadable in the darkness.

“No, but I was harsh.” Hanzo felt his face heat up. “Rude, even. I believe I... misread your intentions." When Cassidy didn’t speak immediately, Hanzo rushed to change the subject. "What you did tonight was impressive,” he said, feeling utterly foolish. Exceptional, his mind supplied instead. 

Cassidy waited, then sighed. “Nothin’ to worry about, boss. Apology accepted. And, uh, thanks.” He shifted his weight again, and he began to move away.

“Wait,” Hanzo said. “I have questions.”

Cassidy bit off another sigh. “Can it wait—”

“I’m willing to pay. The terms you set before.” Hanzo was tempted to press himself farther into the shadows to hide his reddening face. Instead he made himself step closer to Cassidy, to look up at him through his lashes.

Cassidy huffed. It might have been a laugh. Hanzo was close enough to touch, but he didn’t. Neither did he move away. “You know that was me pushin’ buttons. Teasin’ you.”

“I know,” Hanzo answered, and he reached out carefully to brush his fingers along the lapel of Cassidy’s shirt, dragged them cautiously down over the buttons. He heard Cassidy’s breath catch. “I am offering anyway.” Hanzo looked up again to catch his eye, but Cassidy looked anywhere but at him. Cassidy took long enough to answer that Hanzo began to brace himself for the rejection, after he’d been so sure.

“You always run hot and cold like this?” Cassidy sounded frustrated, and Hanzo couldn’t blame him. 

It took him a moment to find the words. “Yes, so I’ve been told.” Cassidy laughed at that, a low puff of breath. It made Hanzo flush all the more. He began to pull away. “This was foolish of me. I—”

Cassidy grabbed at his hand, too-hot fingers holding Hanzo still. “I didn’t say no. Prob’ly makes me foolish too.” Hanzo could see his teeth flash in the low light, Cassidy’s lip curling into that sideways smile that dug under his skin. “Ask away.”

Hanzo let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding. His cheeks were still on fire, but he knew what he wanted. “What did you do? Back there in the alley.”

Cassidy made a low thoughtful sound that Hanzo could feel rumbling in his chest. “Don’t rightly know how to explain it. Known how to do it since I was a kid, but a good friend of mine taught me to... focus, I guess. Made me a better shot.” Hanzo let out a grunt, and Cassidy laughed quietly. “I know it ain’t much of an answer,” he said, lifting Hanzo’s hand from his chest to press a kiss to his palm. Hanzo wasn’t sure if it was an apology or his payment, but it made his heart race either way.

“What is it like then?” Hanzo asked, fingers curling against Cassidy’s cheek, over the scratch of his stubble, before sliding away to rest on his shoulder. 

“I’m not sure you’d believe me,” he laughed.

“Try me,” said Hanzo, still keenly aware of the dragons humming inside him. Perhaps the answer was magic.

“It’s like… time slows down around me, whole world goes slow motion. Like everybody else is movin’ through molasses, but I’m still the same, maybe better.” He laughed again, self-conscious. “Told you it was hard to explain.” He leaned in then, and Hanzo was sure Cassidy would kiss him, but his head dipped to the side, pressed a dry kiss below Hanzo’s ear. “You believe me?” he asked, like it mattered.

Hanzo laughed to hide the way his breath hitched. “More believable than that you are a demon,” he said. Cassidy laughed too, warm breath fanning over Hanzo’s neck. “You aren't, are you?” Hanzo felt stupid for even asking.

“Not that I’m aware, but I s’pose a demon would lie about it,” he answered, sliding Hanzo’s hair aside with a gentle brush of fingers to press a dry kiss to the other side of Hanzo’s neck. Hanzo closed his eyes, focused on his breathing. This slow, gentle teasing was not what he’d expected at all, and he could feel the electric thrum beneath his skin slowly growing stronger.

He had important questions still. “Do you… report on us to the elders? Genji and me?”

“No,” he said, tipping his head down to kiss Hanzo’s collarbone where it peeked out of the collar of his shirt. “Nothin’ that don’t directly affect your safety, anyway. Nothin’ that they couldn’t find out for themselves.” Hanzo laughed quietly when Cassidy’s hair tickled him, his fingers curling into Cassidy’s shirt. “I’m gonna remember that,” Cassidy promised, raising goosebumps over Hanzo’s skin as he trailed the tip of his nose up the side of Hanzo’s neck.

“How did you get this job? As a mercenary?” Hanzo asked.

Cassidy kissed his jaw this time, a thumb tracing Hanzo’s cheekbone. Then he switched sides and kissed his cheek, mouth dangerously close to Hanzo’s now. “That’s two questions,” he said, and Hanzo could feel his smile, close as he was, though he pulled back a little to answer. “Used to run with a gang. You weren’t wrong about that. A man came along, saw what I could do and decided to make somethin’ of me. He’s been a kinda mentor since then, worked with me on a lot of jobs and hooked me up with some others. Got this one through his connections.” The answer was patchy, missed too many details, but Hanzo was finding it harder and harder to focus.

It seemed Cassidy was too; he pressed his body close to Hanzo, too warm under Hanzo’s hands, fingers stroking over Hanzo’s neck and through his hair. “I’m sure you got a thousand questions still, darlin’, but I’m dyin’ to kiss you for real here,” he said, nosing along Hanzo’s jawline.

“One more,” Hanzo replied, sliding his hands over Cassidy’s cheeks to pull his face away. He held him so he could see his eyes, however distractingly his gaze dropped to Hanzo’s mouth. “What is your name?”

Cassidy looked at him then, searching his face for something. The silence lasted several heartbeats, told Hanzo he’d been right about the ridiculous name. As it wore on, he started to fear he’d done something wrong. Surely a mercenary had his reasons for running under a false name, and maybe Hanzo had pushed too far. Maybe— “Jesse,” he finally said, interrupting Hanzo’s spiraling thoughts.

“Jesse,” Hanzo breathed back, pulling him in to slot their mouths together.

He wasn’t sure what he had expected, but it wasn’t this. Jesse kissed him slow and sweet — like molasses, he thought. It did more to set Hanzo’s nerves aflame than any hard, needy kiss ever had. If Jesse was a demon, he was determined to savor Hanzo one small piece at a time. He slipped an arm around Hanzo’s waist, pulled him tight against his firm body, and licked languid and hot into his mouth. Hanzo’s knees turned to water, and he held on hard to Jesse’s neck and hair.

He didn’t know how long they stayed that way, lips moving slowly together, before his neck began to ache from the angle. He pulled back, breathless, and Jesse followed, fingers splayed against his jaw and mouth sliding hotly over his neck. Hanzo bit back the noise that threatened to escape him, hands dragging down Jesse’s chest. “Wait,” he breathed, pushing gently. Jesse made a low, pitiful sound, but he pulled away. Hanzo could hardly see him, so close in the dark space, but his mind filled in the rest of the picture, showed Jesse with lips red and wet and hair a wild tangle, and it was almost enough to break his self-control. “Follow me,” he said instead. “And take off your shoes.”

He led Jesse quickly and quietly through the compound, taking the routes most often used by servants. Jesse followed cautiously, shoes in hand, and asked no questions as Hanzo led him deftly past the guards and into his bedroom. Once inside, he turned quickly, pulling Jesse to him. Jesse came willingly, hand slipping into Hanzo’s hair again and lips sealing against his, breathing out a quiet, relieved moan into Hanzo’s mouth. Hanzo understood; the brief intermission had done nothing to slow his need or the way blood pounded in his ears.

He backed Jesse up to his bed. Jesse sat at the feel of it behind his knees, and Hanzo stood before him, pulling his own jacket off. They each pulled off their own gun holsters, and Hanzo wordlessly set both aside. Jesse stopped there as if waiting for a signal, and Hanzo stepped closer, nudging Jesse’s knees apart to stand between them.

“Jesus Christ,” Jesse breathed, breaking the silence as Hanzo slipped out of his shirt. His fingers roamed the planes of Hanzo’s stomach, then one hand slipped over Hanzo’s ribs while the other slid higher, tracing the lines of his tattoo at his chest.

The way Jesse looked up at him sent a shock through Hanzo’s body. “Is there a problem?” Hanzo asked, forcing a playful tone to fight the weight settling in his chest.

Jesse snorted quietly. “Like you don’t know you’re goddamn gorgeous,” he said, and Hanzo flushed as Jesse leaned forward, mouthing at his stomach. His fingers worked quickly at Hanzo’s belt, then slid along the waistband of his pants, dipping inside just barely. Hanzo couldn’t stop the way his hips slid forward as Jesse tugged at the button and zipper. “Been thinkin’ about this since the first time I saw you,” Jesse mumbled against his skin, deft hands pushing Hanzo’s pants and underwear down to his thighs. Jesse pulled back a little, letting out a low, loud breath at the sight of him.

Hanzo slid a hand into Jesse’s hair, pulled him closer again, his cock bumping against Jesse’s stubbled cheek. “Then do it.” His breath stuck in his throat as Jesse immediately complied, lips sliding hot and wet along the side of his cock. One hand curled around Hanzo’s waist, pulling him closer while the other clasped tight around his length, brought him to meet Jesse’s lips. Whatever patience Jesse’d had broke here, as he sucked Hanzo into his slick mouth. Hanzo flushed, pushed Jesse’s wayward hair from his face to watch. The sounds Jesse made were wet and obscene, half from the greedy, wet slide of his mouth and half from the moans he let out, like he was the one getting sucked off.

Hanzo’s hips jerked out of his control, and his hands spasmed in Jesse’s hair. Jesse broke off, growled, “Pull it,” in a voice that brooked no argument and sent a shiver up Hanzo’s spine, then his mouth was back on Hanzo, tongue curling against his slit before his lips engulfed him again. Hanzo did as he was told, fingers clenching hard, and Jesse moaned, cheeks hollowing out as his mouth slid up Hanzo’s length. Hanzo felt himself hunch over, hips thrusting erratically as he watched Jesse’s mouth do its frenzied work. 

He tried to control his hips, but Jesse swallowed him down with every thrust. “I— Jesse, I’m going to—” he stuttered, trying to pull back. Jesse’s hand tightened on his ass, fingers bruising to hold him still, and his mouth screwed down hard. Hanzo cursed and thrust helplessly, sparks lighting behind his eyes as he came in Jesse’s mouth, cock bumping against the back of his throat.

He panted, shoulders hunched and hands still tangled in Jesse’s hair, braced against him to stay on his feet. Jesse slid one hand to Hanzo’s hip, the other coming up to swipe a thumb over a drop of Hanzo’s come at the corner of his mouth. His eyes met Hanzo’s as he licked it clean and Hanzo groaned, sure the sight would haunt him later. Both of Jesse’s hands held him upright then, thumbs rubbing little circles while Jesse kissed his stomach. “Y’alright?” he asked against Hanzo’s skin, voice lower than before, gravelly now.

“Great,” he mumbled. 

He let Jesse pull him closer. Jesse smoothed a hand down his spine, over his ass and the tops of his thighs, then tugged at Hanzo’s waistband. “You want these on or off?” Jesse asked.

“Off,” Hanzo said, and Jesse helped him out of his shoes and his wrinkled clothes. Hanzo crawled onto the bed as he was freed from his clothes, curled bonelessly onto the sheets. When Jesse came back to him, Hanzo sighed, plucking at the buttons of Jesse’s shirt. “You didn’t—” he started.

“Nah,” Jesse said agreeably, fingers skipping down Hanzo’s side. He grinned at Hanzo then, looking smug. “Already got what I came for, though.” 

Hanzo laughed quietly, then pressed his sleepy body against Jesse’s. He snaked a hand down to cup his erection, enjoying the way Jesse’s grin disappeared as he cursed and jerked into Hanzo’s touch. “I don’t believe you,” he said, then pulled Jesse on top of him. 

He peeled off Jesse’s shirt, mouthed up his neck until Jesse groaned his name, hips stuttering into the cradle of Hanzo’s spread legs. He dragged his palms down Jesse’s bare chest, fingers curling against coarse hair and slick scars alike. Jesse pulled away to shuck off the rest of his clothes, then returned to slide his hard cock against Hanzo’s hip. 

He kissed Hanzo’s neck and along his collarbone, hips rolling and cock gliding smooth between their sweat-slick stomachs. “So hot,” Jesse muttered against him, mouth sliding over his tattoo. Hanzo wrapped his hand around Jesse’s cock, found it hard and wet, already on the verge. Jesse’s hips stuttered again, and he groaned. It went quickly with Jesse already so worked up. Hanzo’s hand did the rest, and he jerked fingers into Jesse’s hair, pulling his face up to watch him unravel. Jesse spilled hot over their skin, breathing out a string of curses. He panted, wiped his sweaty face over Hanzo’s chest, and then he settled there, body warm and heavy against him.

Hanzo didn’t know how much time passed, lying there with Jesse against him, Hanzo’s fingers combing through his hair. Jesse moved first, making a face at the mess on their stomachs. He pulled away, and Hanzo propped himself up on his elbows, watched him look about the room until he decided to wipe them both down with his own discarded underwear. “Ain’t much, but I don’t know where anything is,” he said, apology in his tone. Hanzo only looked on, now that he could, took in the way his bronze skin gleamed in the lamplight, appreciating the ripple of muscles in his whole gloriously nude body.

Jesse went still at the end of the bed, and Hanzo didn’t know what to say next. The whole moment felt fragile, and he was afraid to misspeak. The strange pressure curled into his chest again. After a few moments of silence, Jesse glanced over at him, seemed to come to some conclusion. He reached down to the floor, began sliding on his pants. When he stuffed the underwear in his pocket and reached for his socks, the weight pressed down harder.

“You’re leaving,” Hanzo said, carefully as he could. He didn’t know what this was or what Jesse wanted, but he figured this was an outcome he could have predicted.

Jesse didn’t quite look at him, and Hanzo watched his sharp jaw clench. “Seemed to me that you wanted some discretion,” he said. “Can’t exactly be here in the mornin’.”

“Oh,” was all Hanzo could think to say.

Jesse slid on his shoes. “’Sides, I like to smoke after.”

“Oh,” Hanzo said again, uncomfortable. “You could use the window.” He made himself keep his gaze steady on Jesse’s face, watching for any clue to tell him what this was.

Jesse looked at him then, paused his dressing. His expression was guarded, as careful as Hanzo’s. “You askin’ me to stay?”

Hanzo swallowed, tried to keep his tone casual. “If you wish,” he said.

His face must have given him away, because Jesse laughed a little then, turned away to pull his shoes back off. “If I wish,” he repeated, muttering as if to himself. He still got up, moved to open the window, and he fished a cigarette from his pants pocket. He leaned halfway out, letting the smoke curl out into the night air. Hanzo got up then and pulled on a robe. He looked at the freckles that dotted Jesse’s shoulders, watched goosebumps rise on his skin from the cool night air.

Without thinking, he reached out to trail fingers down Jesse’s spine. Jesse arched back a little. “Don’t like to make things easy, do ya, darlin’?” he asked, tight voice at odds with the way he pressed into Hanzo’s touch.

“No,” Hanzo admitted, pressing his forehead to Jesse’s shoulder, unable to stop his hands from roaming. He lifted his head a little, kissed one of the freckles he’d been eyeing, then another.

Jesse shuddered, let out a long exhale of smoke. “Ain’t gonna look a gift horse in the mouth, sugar, but I gotta know what you want here.”

Hanzo sighed against his skin. “I don’t know,” he said, and it was easier like this, with Jesse facing away from him. “More than one night at least,” he said, so quietly he was sure Jesse hadn’t heard him.

He dragged his lips across the skin in front of him, fingers mapping the ridges of Jesse’s ribs and stomach. One of Jesse’s hands pressed flat against his, tangling their fingers together. “Yeah? Could work with that,” Jesse said, and Hanzo let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding.

“I thought,” Hanzo started, then swallowed around the lump in his throat. “I thought this might be… what you do.”

Jesse went very still, fingers twitching against Hanzo’s. “What I do?”

“What’s the phrase?” Hanzo asked. “One in every port?” His free hand slid up, stroking lightly through the hair on Jesse’s chest.

“Oh,” Jesse said, then relaxed into him, laughing a little. “Guess I can’t blame you if mercs have a reputation. Maybe I came on a little strong.” He laughed again, flicking the burning end off his cigarette and tucking the butt carefully into his pocket. He turned then, careful not to shake off Hanzo’s hold on him. “But no,” he said, not quite meeting Hanzo’s gaze. “I, uh, can’t say I’ve never had fun on the job, but no. It ain’t a habit.” He swallowed then, looked down at Hanzo and stroked a hand softly through his hair, the look on his face a little less guarded. “You’re… somethin’ else.”

Hanzo smiled back, leaned into the caress. “Is that so?”

“Fishin’ for compliments again?” Jesse asked, and Hanzo blushed. Jesse grinned at him, and Hanzo made an undignified noise as Jesse easily lifted him, hands under Hanzo’s thighs. Hanzo wasn’t a large man, but he was solidly built, a mass of hard-earned muscle. A little thrill shot through him at how effortlessly Jesse held him up, steady even when Hanzo tried to distract him scraping teeth up his neck.

“Been burnin’ me up since I first laid eyes on you,” Jesse said, walking them back to the bed. “Drivin’ me crazy. You got no right to look like that and be so mean to me,” he teased as he pushed Hanzo down, settling easily between his legs. Hanzo’s cheeks flushed as Jesse nuzzled into his hair, strong hands gripping at Hanzo’s bare thighs.

He smoothed his hands down Jesse’s back. “Jesse,” he breathed, tugging at the waistband of his pants.

Jesse got the hint, pulling back to take his clothes off. “Like the way you say my name,” he said as he moved in again, blanketed Hanzo with his long body. “And the way you blush,” he laughed, trailing fingers over one of Hanzo’s hot cheeks. Hanzo pulled him in and kissed him then, licking into his mouth.

Jesse sank down onto him, and Hanzo turned to press a hot kiss to Jesse’s neck, slid up until he caught Jesse’s earring between his teeth and tugged. Jesse groaned softly, rearing back to undo the knot of Hanzo’s robe. He parted it and looked Hanzo over, hands palming at Hanzo’s chest. “How’d I get so lucky?” Jesse asked. A thumb skated over Hanzo’s nipple and he gasped, arching into the touch. “Fuckin’ gorgeous, every part of you.”

Hanzo sat up to shrug out of the robe, and Jesse helped, yanked it out from under him to shove it aside. His hands grasped hungrily at Hanzo’s back, his hips, his chest, every touch leaving sparks in its wake. He grasped at Hanzo’s thighs, rolling his hips down into him, then slid one hand lower. Jesse pulled one cheek aside, massaged his hand roughly up the crease, fingers rubbing at his entrance. Hanzo groaned and scraped his teeth over Jesse’s jaw, gasped out his name. He ground his hips down, pushing insistently against the maddening pressure. “Jesse, please.”

“A man could get used to that sound,” he teased, even as he panted against Hanzo’s neck. His fingers slowed, petting delicate circles, and Hanzo let out a frustrated groan.

He grabbed Jesse by the hair roughly, forced him to look Hanzo in the eye, and Jesse let out a strangled sound. “Jesse,” he said again, and Jesse’s eyes went half lidded, lips parting. “You can fuck me now or leave.”

”Since you ask so sweetly,” he said on a breathy laugh, but he stopped his teasing after that. If Hanzo hadn’t been so wound up, he would have laughed at how quickly Jesse scrambled for lube and protection, at the rapid pace he set working Hanzo open on his thick, calloused fingers. Hanzo growled and pulled at him and rushed him along until Jesse finally bottomed out inside him, the stretch too sharp but good anyway. They both lay there, breathing each other’s air, until Hanzo gasped, “Move.” Jesse did as he was told, dragging out and back in with slow rolls of his hips. He kept the pace slow but insistent, and Hanzo practically squirmed against him.

Jesse looked down at him, mumbling about how good he felt, and Hanzo felt the pressure building in his chest again. He had to look away, clawing at Jesse’s shoulders to pull him against him and bucking his hips to urge him on. Jesse only clasped his hands, pressed them down into the bed beside Hanzo’s head, and kept on with his slow, careful thrusts. “Wanna see you,” Jesse said, eyes intent on his face. Jesse fucked him just like that, punched the breath out of him not with his thrusts, which dragged steady and sweet, but with the way he filled up all the space around and inside Hanzo, watched him even when he tried to hide himself. Hanzo writhed with it, felt himself gasping as the pressure in his chest and belly both built until he unraveled entirely, body quaking as his orgasm swept over him.

When it was over, Jesse cleaned them up again, and Hanzo pulled him wordlessly back. Jesse curled against him, head on Hanzo’s chest and hand splayed over his ribs. “Jesse.” At the sound of his name, he blinked sleepily up at Hanzo. Hanzo swallowed. “Wake me before you leave?”

Jesse looked at him, back to that unreadable expression, and he nodded, leaning up to kiss Hanzo’s jaw.

Hanzo woke to the sound of something buzzing, and to Jesse pulling carefully off of him. Jesse grappled with his phone and the buzzing ceased. Hanzo went utterly still while Jesse dressed, unsure why he didn’t want to break the silence, let him know he had woken too. But Jesse fumbled back into bed in the darkness, hands finding Hanzo’s face to stroke his cheek gently. “Hanzo, darlin’,” he whispered, and Hanzo opened his eyes. Jesse smiled at him, kissed him on the corner of his mouth. “I gotta go. See you soon.” Just as he’d promised.

Hanzo nodded, then curled back into the warm sheets, watching through the window until the sky began to lighten.

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

Hanzo watched as, for the third time, Jesse checked the chamber of his gun, a heavy thing that looked like an old six-shooter straight out of some cowboy film. It was clearly too new to be a relic, and well cared for. He wondered again, briefly, about the things Jesse did when he wasn’t with Hanzo.

He wore all black again, like he had that first day and on their night out, with armor strapped to his chest. Like his gun, it looked custom made, expensive. The flashbangs at his belt were military grade. Whatever Jesse had gotten up to before he came here, his equipment was top of the line. Despite the dark clothes, he still managed to stick out among the Shimada guards. Nothing about him suggested stealth was his strong suit, but he had made it this far, far enough to earn or steal his expensive gear. Hanzo pushed away the worry that tried to burrow in, reminded himself of Jesse’s remarkable skill with a gun.

“Are you ready, Mr. Cassidy?” he asked, and Jesse straightened.

“As ever,” he said, then pitched his voice lower. “Though I still don’t see why you’re here. This ain’t a job for the boss.” One of the guards nearby scoffed, and she smirked at Hanzo knowingly.

Hanzo only shrugged. Jesse didn’t know that Hanzo was their insurance, should everything go sideways. He still didn’t know about the dragons that lurked under Hanzo’s skin. He might find out this night, if it came to it, but despite all that had happened between them, he’d been with them less than two months. Jesse was still an outsider, hadn’t yet earned enough of the elders’ trust. Hanzo was under explicit orders to hold back unless absolutely necessary. “Shimada leaders have always joined the fight,” he said instead. “We do not ask for sacrifice while we sit on high.” It was true enough, anyway.

Jesse looked around him at the guards, several of whom stared steely-eyed back at him. He seemed unnerved for a moment, then said, “Guess that’s one way to ensure loyalty. Always figured you for a smart man, but still, I can’t pretend I ain’t worried about you.” His tone was careful, emotionless, but Hanzo felt it worm under his skin anyway.

“Do your job, then,” Hanzo said. “Watch my back.” Jesse nodded at that, a flash of heat in his eyes and the barest hint of a smirk on his face. Hanzo knew the joke Jesse didn’t voice, and he suppressed the urge to roll his eyes.

They waited in silence, crouched on the rooftop until Hanzo’s knees ached. Several of the Masuda would be here to guarantee their shipment, and the Shimada clan would have their revenge. It was to be swift and brutal, ambush and disable the clan, send a clear message that the Shimadas did not deal lightly with threats to their people.

They watched from the darkness as Masuda foot soldiers trickled into the warehouse, guards posted at the door. Hanzo felt the dragons stir under his skin. Azami, a tall, slim guard with a streak of orange slashed through her severe black ponytail, looked up from her perch. ”They’re all inside,” she said, voice barely carrying over the wind.

Hanzo nodded and gave the orders, and they splintered into four groups, Jesse and Azami with him. They would be the smallest group, but easily the deadliest. They slipped down from the roof, and Azami eyed Jesse, lips tight at the noises he made. They were downwind though; Jesse’s heavy steps were no matter here.

They crept up on the guards posted at the western entrance. Only two here. Hanzo and Azami took them both out quickly, silent as could be, while Jesse kept watch for interlopers. Too easy, Hanzo thought, skin prickling as they moved inside. There was a short line of huge shipping crates, a guard posted on either end. Good cover if they got rid of the guards. He motioned Azami to the right and he took the left. There was a wet sound and a thud behind him as Azami took out her guard. It was quiet, but enough for the man in front of Hanzo to turn.

Hanzo moved swiftly, clutching one hand over the man’s mouth and sliding a knife into his throat. He snatched the guard’s gun before it could clatter to the floor, but only just. Hanzo lowered the body quietly to the floor. 

Azami rushed to them, checked the body of the guard. “Shimada-san, these men,” she hissed. “They do not wear Masuda tattoos.”

“Fuck me,” said Jesse.

Hanzo cursed too then said, “Stay with me. Get our people out, then we will ask questions.”

The hush didn’t last long. A gunshot echoed through the warehouse, ringing in Hanzo’s ears, and a cry went up, the sounds of chaos bursting from the other side of their cover. He gestured for Azami to stay put, then he and Jesse darted across the way, took cover behind another solo crate. He peeked out from his own, fired off two shots. He could hear Jesse and Azami doing the same.

The dragons roared in his veins, grew louder when he saw a Shimada guard fall, and louder still when Hanzo killed the woman who’d done it. The three of them moved from one vantage to another, but there were so many enemies, Masuda and strangers alike, some of them foreigners in military-grade gear like Jesse’s. Far more and far better armed than they’d prepared for. Nearby he heard a clanging, scraping sound, metal on metal. A huge door was closing, blocking one of their exits. “Je— Cassidy,” he hissed, and Jesse looked at him sharply, breath caught on Hanzo’s near slip. “It’s time.”

Jesse nodded and moved from his crouch, standing tall. The dragons roared at the taste of blood and dust in Hanzo’s mouth, and he watched six enemies fall neatly. Jesse crouched next to him to reload. He was sweating, Hanzo noticed. He wondered when it had started. “Again,” Hanzo insisted, and Jesse obeyed. When he reloaded again, he was washed out, his hands shaking. “Again.”

Jesse squinted at him then, and Hanzo caught that strange red glint in his eye. It was unnerving to have turned on him, and it didn’t suit the look Jesse gave him, the way he searched Hanzo’s face. “Don’t work like that,” Jesse said, voice strained.

Hanzo stiffened, heard the sound of boots growing closer. “Again,” he demanded, and it felt like the dragons spoke with him. Jesse glanced over Hanzo’s shoulder, then he stood and the world grew hot, too hot and dusty to breathe, and the dragons thrashed under Hanzo’s skin, threatening to break free on their own. Jesse came back to him looking dazed, but Hanzo checked to find the room mostly clear now, the rest of their enemies panicking. Two bodies lay on the floor beside him, far too close for comfort. He thought of the way Jesse’s gaze had flicked just past him, wondered if Jesse had only obeyed to protect him. 

Jesse looked terrible, washed out except for a bright spot of red in each cheek, feverish and trembling. He clutched at Hanzo’s arm. “Hanzo, I—” His body swayed against Hanzo’s.

“We will do the rest,” Hanzo assured him as Jesse’s eyes slipped closed. Azami pulled him to a sitting position.

Hanzo turned away from him. Reinforcements had begun flooding in on the north end, still too many and flanking a cluster of Shimada guards. They would be pinned soon, two exits blocked and the other filled with the enemy. He snarled. Static raced along Hanzo’s arm and he let the dragons loose. They came with the sound of a hurricane, wind howling in Hanzo’s ears and the smell of ozone in the air. Hanzo felt the terror of their enemies as they scrambled. The dragons ripped through them, ferocious and hungry for sacrifice. He tasted blood in his mouth, felt the sickening crunch of bone between his jaws. The dragons were like a madness that threatened to overtake him, a force of nature that demanded he succumb to their wildness, to become wild himself. It was thrilling and terrifying all at once, made him sick to his stomach. It didn’t stop him from shooting though, at the rare, panicked enemy who he found before the dragons did. 

It went on too long; he had never set them loose on so many, and they feasted with a ferocious joy. His jaw ached as he clenched it, trying to block out the sensation of ripping, crushing. Despite the rush and the sickness it brought, he managed to control them enough to leave a few only injured, not dead. Finally they slowed, greed and bloodlust giving way to lethargy. They wound their way back to him. One of them seemed to linger briefly near Jesse, appraising, before the other nipped at its flank and they both disappeared in a shimmer of dust around Hanzo’s body. Hanzo felt his knees threaten to give out. He breathed heavily, looked out on the carnage. Shimada guards had fallen to their own knees, awed and horrified, and some of them looked at him the same way they had the dragons. It made his stomach churn, but he managed to keep on his feet, to straighten his shoulders.

He turned to Azami, who looked at him the same as she always had. Then again, she was a Shimada cousin, had grown up on stories of dragons. She might have seen them before. “Give the orders,” he said to her, and he went to check on Jesse.

All told, it should have gone worse. Would have, if not for Jesse or the dragons. They lost four guards, and nearly a dozen were wounded. They cleaned up the Shimada bodies, took them with them for proper funerals. They left the dead enemies there as a warning, and Hanzo searched but could find no clue as to who the unmarked enemies were. Masuda may have only hired mercenaries, but it stuck in the back of Hanzo’s mind. They’d been prepared for the assault.

They rounded up the living. He ordered a search of the shipping crates, but they found nothing out of the ordinary. Most were empty, left for later storage. He ordered several guards, those who looked least injured and least shaken, to seize the guns and ammunition. They left the drugs they found alone; the local law enforcement would surely appreciate the tip they would leave later that linked the dead Masuda to the narcotics.

Between the dead and injured, and the guards assigned to transport their hostages and the guns, there was no one to help Jesse. In the end, Hanzo did it himself with Azami’s help, Jesse’s heavy body a dead weight across his shoulders. Hanzo invited Azami into his car with him, and together they wrestled him into a seat. When Hanzo buckled in and Jesse slumped against his shoulder, she chose not to comment.

They spoke briefly about the surprise, the sheer number of enemies. Azami was suspicious about it too, but Hanzo had no answers for her. She complimented his leadership, credited him and the dragons with saving them all. Hanzo accepted it with some discomfort, but the dragons puffed up with pride, winding lazily inside him. Azami hesitated a moment, then she gestured at Jesse. “He did well.”

It was unexpected. “The other guards don’t like him,” Hanzo said.

“We don’t like mercenaries. How can we trust someone who sells himself to the highest bidder?” Azami shrugged, and Hanzo hummed to himself. “And he is too charming,” she said with a smirk. “Thinks he can get whatever he wants just because the servant women giggle for him. Did you know they give him treats from the kitchen?”

In spite of everything that had happened tonight, Hanzo smiled. He had thought, this whole time, that Jesse only stole them. “I did not. His charms have no effect on you, then?” he teased.

She laughed. “No, I don’t like my lovers so certain that they’re good-looking.” She looked at him more seriously then. “But Cassidy-san was brave tonight. Loyal. I think he would die for you.” Hanzo swallowed, felt the heavy weight in his chest again. She looked like she was weighing her words. “I think he won’t though. Demons don’t die easily.”

Hanzo let out a gruff laugh. “So superstitious,” he said, and they fell into silence, Jesse’s head lolling on his shoulder. He tried to push him off, but the angle was awkward, Jesse a persistent dead weight. He could tell that Azami was trying valiantly not to smile.

When they arrived back at the compound, Jesse was still asleep, though his breathing was better, more normal. Hanzo shifted, and Jesse grabbed for him, nosing up against his neck. Hanzo went stiff.

“I can help you,” Azami said finally. “Get him to his room. Or, ah.” She looked at him, calculating. “Or yours?”

Hanzo’s gaze snapped to hers and she stared back, certain and unafraid, until Hanzo sighed. “Mine,” he said quietly. It was a risk, trusting her. But Hanzo couldn’t bear the thought of only dropping Jesse off, leaving him alone when he was weak from saving Hanzo. Azami only nodded, and she did it again when he added, “Please. Keep it to yourself.”

They smuggled Jesse to Hanzo’s room together. After Azami left and Hanzo readied himself for bed, he set to work on Jesse. He had to drag him into a sitting position to pull his holster off. Hanzo unclasped his body armor, fingers searching out all the fastenings with care. As he peeled it off of him, Jesse stirred, arms sliding up around him. “Hanzo,” Jesse breathed against his neck. He tugged the armor free, and Jesse let him, squinting sleepy eyes at him. Hanzo pulled off Jesse’s boots then tried to push Jesse back against the sheets. He refused, solid body resisting Hanzo’s hands. “Hanzo,” he said again, trembling fingers slipping into Hanzo’s hair and around his waist.

Hanzo gently tried to pry his hands away. “You should rest.”

Jesse ignored him, hands shaking as they grasped at Hanzo, pulling him in close. He was surprisingly strong for someone who’d recently been so faint. His mouth slid wet over Hanzo’s jaw. “You’re safe,” Jesse murmured into his neck before his teeth scraped the skin there.

“I am,” Hanzo breathed fondly. “And you are unwell.” He gave up trying to pry Jesse’s hands from him, instead pulling Jesse’s face up, jaw cradled between Hanzo’s fingers. “We can do this later. Rest.”

“Kiss me,” Jesse said in reply, and Hanzo scowled at him, ready to argue. The hand in Hanzo’s hair slid to touch his cheek, trailed fingers over his mouth. “We coulda died tonight, but we didn’t. We’re here. Safe.” He tugged at Hanzo’s body, hand burning the skin under Hanzo’s robe. “It’s just a headache, darlin’. Hanzo, please, kiss me.”

Hanzo didn’t believe for a moment that this was only a headache, but he caved anyway, pressed their mouths together. It was another of Jesse’s slow, deliberate kisses, the kind that made Hanzo feel as if he was being devoured. He felt the pressure curl in his chest and he pushed into the kiss with tongue and teeth, clenching hard at Jesse’s hair. Jesse moaned when Hanzo tipped his head back, bit his way down Jesse’s neck. Jesse stared at him almost reverently as Hanzo dragged the rest of their clothing off. His skin itched and his chest felt heavy. I think he would die for you, Azami’s voice rattled in his head, unbidden. Hanzo could no longer stand to have Jesse look at him like that.

He grasped at Jesse, pulled him around until he was facing away, thighs spread over Hanzo’s lap. Hanzo dug his fingers inside him, twisting roughly until Jesse arched, pleading. Hanzo fucked him that way, too, one hand curled loose at Jesse’s throat. He buried his face between Jesse’s shoulders, driving roughly into him as if that could silence the voice in his head or ease the pressure in his chest. Nothing could hide the boneless way Jesse melted against him though, or drown out the way he gasped Hanzo’s name, over and over, like a prayer.

Jesse fell asleep almost immediately after, still exhausted. He slept with Hanzo’s hair tangled around his fingers. Hanzo lay awake much longer.

Hanzo woke to the sight of the sky slowly shifting from black to gray to blue, long fingers of light creeping over the windowsill. He felt the weight of Jesse’s arm draped over him, felt the heat of his body against him, and he burrowed back into the warmth for a moment until his sleepy brain caught up. The sun was rising, and Jesse was still in his bed.

Hanzo woke fully with a start, and Jesse jerked out of his sleep. He looked at Hanzo in the morning light, then out the window. “Ah, shit,” he grumbled as he sat up, moving stiffly to look for his clothes. “I’m sorry, darlin’, must’ve slept right through the alarm. Shit,” he muttered again, scrambling into his clothes as quickly as he could. Hanzo only watched him, unable to find words. “Can prob’ly still get out before anyone sees me. Ain’t a big deal,” he said half to himself as he grabbed his armor and holster. He seemed to take Hanzo’s silence for anger, because he looked at him, eyes painfully earnest. “I’m real sorry,” he said again. “But I ain’t sorry I got to see you like this.” He tugged gently at a strand of Hanzo’s hair, then kissed him and moved to the door. He paused, listening with an unhappy look on his face, then slipped out quietly. 

Chapter Text

Hanzo met with his father and clan elders that morning to debrief. Genji was present, as were several of the guards from last night, but Jesse, as usual when they discussed dragons, was not. He learned two of their captives died overnight. Both were the unmarked foreigners. A quick examination had found that both had been poisoned, and each had a false tooth to hide the capsule inside. Hanzo’s hackles rose at the report. No simple mercenaries would have chosen that over trading information for their lives. He thought about Jesse, briefly cold at the thought that his own tongue had brushed against death without his knowledge. He considered asking him, but he already suspected he knew the answer. Jesse wouldn’t poison himself alone in a cell. He’d find a way out or die fighting. It was why the elders couldn’t trust him with knowledge of the dragons. He’d risk himself in a variety of stupid ways to protect Hanzo, but he wanted to live and was proud enough to expect he would.

They didn’t tell him what questioning the Masuda captives had earned, only that they hadn’t yet revealed anything usable. They were pleased, though, that Hanzo had brought them so many hostages. It was frustrating to have lost the two, but surely the three remaining would prove useful. Hanzo accepted the praise, though some distant part of himself wanted to feel ill. He had always been too weak for interrogations, had neither the patience nor the stomach for torture. He was little better than Genji in that regard. But it was an important part of their work; he would get used to it. 

Hanzo recounted his version of events, from the unmarked mercenaries to Jesse’s strange talent to the dragons. The elders were intrigued to hear that Jesse had fainted; none of them had known the limits of his skill, or what it might cost him to use it. Hanzo felt strange telling them, as if he were sharing something he shouldn’t. He felt strange remembering it too. He had seen Jesse’s fatigue, had ignored his insistence that he couldn’t continue, and he had commanded him to do it anyway. And Jesse had. I think he would die for you, Azami had said. 

When Hanzo was finished, each guard gave their story in turn, praising Hanzo’s dragons. Some begrudgingly gave Jesse the credit he deserved, but most muttered superstitiously about demons or praised Hanzo’s leadership instead of Jesse’s skill. Hanzo tensed when Azami entered, but she only spoke of the warehouse, said nothing of the car ride or helping Hanzo afterward. She was the only one to voluntarily speak highly of Jesse.

“Cassidy-san was very brave. He killed many of our enemies. I believe we would have lost many more guards without him,” she said.

“And you do not worry about the demon?” Hanzo’s father asked, mouth twitching in a wry smile.

Azami shook her head. “Whatever it is he does, he does it well, and he fought for us until he could no longer stand. We shouldn’t expect such loyalty from outside the clan, yet he gave it to aid us, and he obeyed Shimada-san’s orders without question.” That last part was something of an embellishment, Hanzo knew. Azami had been there when Jesse tried to argue, tried to warn him that it was too much. Whatever her reasons, he appreciated it. Kiyoshi looked pleased, knowing she had recommended Jesse to the clan. Takeshi and others shared a look between themselves.

Hanzo’s father glanced briefly at him in a way that made his skin itch, then he looked back to Azami. “And you are sure he saw nothing?”

“I am sure,” Azami replied. “He used his… talents three times, then fainted.”

Sojiro thanked her, then dismissed the guards. Hanzo waited for it to be over, but he could feel the prickling of his skin that told him there was more. When it was just he and Genji, and the elders, Sojiro spoke again, staring directly at Hanzo. “Mr. Cassidy showed you a great deal of loyalty.”

“He did,” Hanzo said.

“More than we might expect only money to buy.” Hanzo waited, and he felt Genji shift his weight next to him, as if Genji too sensed the change in the air.

When it seemed their father wouldn’t continue, Hanzo finally said, “He was very brave.”

“Perhaps it was bravery,” Sojiro said. Hanzo’s fingers curled against his thighs. “Or perhaps he is only a fool.”

Hanzo felt heat creeping up the back of his neck. “Perhaps,” he agreed slowly.

Sojiro waited, stared Hanzo down as if he expected something. Hanzo said nothing. Their father’s fingers twitched on his lap. “I’ve heard many rumors this morning.”

Hanzo fought to keep his face expressionless, fought past the sudden stiffness in his body and the tightness in his throat to ask, “Oh?” Genji shifted again. He had played this game many times with their father, enough to recognize the tension in the air. Hanzo had not, had always confessed before this point. Their father knew. He had to. Hanzo’s cheeks began to burn, but he said nothing else, looking beyond his father to the elders, who stared right back. Some were impassive, others looked angry.

Sojiro’s imperious brows drew down lower the longer the silence wore on. “These rumors suggest that your relationship with our employee is inappropriate.”

Genji made a strange noise in his throat. Hanzo kept his eyes on their father. “How so?” he asked.

“He was seen leaving your bedroom this morning.” It seemed Genji could no longer contain himself; a shocked little laugh escaped him.

“He was injured and needed rest. I did not know where else to take him,” Hanzo said. He didn’t know why he persisted in the lie, caught as he was. It seemed he could buy time this way, keep it close and only his for a few fragile moments more. But spoken aloud, he knew his excuse was flimsy, utterly transparent. He had never been, but he knew Jesse slept in the same wing as the other guards who stayed on their property. It was something he couldn’t have forgotten, even exhausted after a battle. Sojiro’s face twisted into something almost frightening.

“Don’t play coy, Hanzo. It was not the first time.” In spite of his face, his words were calm, if chilly. There it was, the final piece. Hanzo could say nothing to that, but he stared back at his father, face on fire and mind racing.

Of course. Of course they hadn’t been as careful as they thought. There were guards and servants everywhere; any one of them could have given them up. He thought about Jesse, clumsily climbing to their rooftop hideaway, and down the ladder just last night. Stealth was not his strong suit. He thought about Jesse getting treats from the kitchen servants, too many for just one person. He thought of all the little scraps of evidence they’d left, all flooding his brain in the span of seconds. Even if they had been careful, perhaps his father had only guessed because Hanzo’s reaction gave them away. Either way, it was out now, and a part of Hanzo almost felt relief. Except that Jesse wasn’t here. He’d thought it was because they had to discuss dragons, but now Hanzo wondered, worried.

It was Kiyoshi who broke the silence. “If I may, Shimada-san.” Sojiro waved her on. “It is unlike Hanzo to neglect his duties. I doubt he has forgotten the importance of providing an heir. This is only a youthful indulgence, one many of us have been guilty of.” She smiled carefully at Hanzo, and he felt some of the tension leave his body. They were not united against him.

Takeshi snapped. “This is what comes from inviting a demon under our roof.”

“Some demons bring luck,” she said coolly. “We mustn’t forget he saved Genji. He kept Hanzo alive last night, fought until he collapsed, at Hanzo’s order. He may be brave, or only a foolish boy in love. But you said, Shimada-san, his loyalty runs deeper than money could buy.” Kiyoshi sighed, looked apologetically at Hanzo then. “That loyalty makes him useful,” she finished.

The elders discussed him for a time as if Hanzo were not there. It seemed they were evenly split, and they argued over the merits of allowing Jesse to stay, allowing their relationship to continue, versus removing him from their service entirely. Takeshi’s “demon” argument did not gain much traction, but his concern that Hanzo was uninterested in producing an heir was taken up and examined vigorously. It was a miserable experience, and he stared at the floor, let their voices wash over him. Genji twitched beside him, tried to catch his eye, but Hanzo shook his head, not now.

In the end, they came to an agreement. The elders decided Kiyoshi was right that Jesse’s loyalty to Hanzo was useful. Useful, they called the thing between Jesse and him. The word burned inside of him. They also felt that Takeshi was right to remain concerned. In exchange for keeping Jesse around, they extracted a promise from Hanzo that he would allow them to search out promising young women for him to marry and produce an heir. The choice would fall to Hanzo, but they would do the initial screenings, select appropriate women. He had known it was coming, would have come soon even had Jesse not been there. They had always worried over this, since they realized his rare flirtations and trysts were never with women. Years ago, they had demanded that he end things with Rin too, with other young men, until Hanzo had finally stopped altogether. Between Hanzo’s plain disinterest in women and Genji’s wildness, they feared the only Shimada heir would be born as an accident of drunken neglect, to someone outside their control. Hanzo surrendered to it then, clinging to the knowledge that Jesse would remain.

He and Genji were dismissed, and Hanzo moved stiffly, unsettled. Jesse was awaiting his turn outside, and Hanzo felt his face go red at the sight of him. He couldn’t think of what to say, only stared until Genji said, “Good luck, Cass,” and pulled Hanzo along while Jesse was ushered away from him by the guards.

Genji bumped Hanzo’s side gently, grabbed his sleeve and led him along the worn stone paths to their rooftop hideaway. Hanzo followed him up the wall like when they were children, and he perched there with Genji beside him. After some time, Genji finally laughed a little. “Is this why you’re so mean to me? I always thought it would be funny to watch you get in trouble, but that sucked.”

Hanzo rubbed a hand over his face, breathing out a relieved laugh. “It could have been worse. Remember when they found out you’d brought a prostitute here?”

“Youthful indulgence,” Genji said, mimicking Kiyoshi’s high, aged voice.

Hanzo tsked and pinched him. “Don’t mock our only ally,” he said mildly.

Genji looked too serious, scowling out over the cliff. “She isn't our ally. She thinks she is, but she only makes their control seem kinder,” he said, and Hanzo took in a sharp breath.

“Genji,” he started.

“It’s true. Look what happened. You agreed to let them marry you off to someone they choose, and Cass gets to be their pawn as long as he cares about you. Probably can’t end things easily, either. You think Kiyoshi didn’t already want that? You think they won’t drag some bargain out of him, too?” Genji’s nostrils flared.

“I know,” Hanzo said, itching for one of Jesse’s cigarettes. He settled for plucking at the fabric over his thigh. “I’m angry, too. But if either of us is to lead and make any changes, we must show we can sacrifice for the clan.”

Genji scoffed. “Maybe the clan has no right to continue.”

“Do not,” Hanzo said, suddenly on him, a hand over his mouth. Genji sprawled under him but could not break his grip. Pebbles skittered from under him, tumbled down from the rooftop. “You heard them. They knew everything I tried to keep secret." He hissed it as quietly as he could, right next to Genji's ear, and Genji went slack against him. "Don’t say such things.” Genji nodded, and Hanzo let him up.

They sat in relative peace for a time. Finally, Genji elbowed him, grinning. “You know, I’m proud of you. Didn’t know you had any mischief left in you.” Hanzo couldn’t stop the smile. “You like him?” Genji asked.

“Well enough,” Hanzo said cautiously. It still felt strange to speak about any of it.

Genji snorted, saw straight through him. “Good. He’s more fun than you are. Maybe it’ll rub off.” Hanzo sighed good-naturedly. Then Genji said, “Be careful with him.”

Hanzo smiled a little. “Worried for me?” he asked.

“No,” Genji said. “The other way around. I know you.”

Genji looked at him a long time, gaze steady, and Hanzo felt anger boiling inside him again. “Go away,” he said tiredly. Genji did, and Hanzo sat alone for a long time.

He didn’t see Jesse until later, but it was still a marvel that he came to his room before the sun had properly set. He let himself in and found Hanzo standing at the window. “Been lookin’ for you, you know. You just in here broodin’?” Jesse asked, pressing a kiss to his hair.

“Thinking.” Hanzo turned in his arms, felt Jesse squirm as he dug into his pocket for Jesse’s cigarettes. He lit one and leaned out the window.

Jesse snorted softly. “You’re welcome.” He squeezed into the space beside him with a little hum. The window wasn’t big enough for two, not really, but if they both turned to the side they could make room. It meant he had to look at Jesse though, and it made him uncomfortable. “I’m sorry,” Jesse said quietly.

Hanzo flinched. “Don’t.”

Jesse sighed. “Not about them findin’ out. I think it was bound to happen sooner or later. I meant...” he trailed off, ruffled a hand through his messy hair. “I been holdin’ a bit of a grudge. Mighta felt a little resentful wonderin’ if I was your dirty little secret.” He flushed a little, didn't quite look at Hanzo.

Hanzo looked hard at him. “You thought I was ashamed of you?”

“Somethin’ like that,” he admitted, cheeks still flushed. Hanzo thought about the occasional unreadable look on Jesse’s face, wondered how many were this thing.

“I… could have explained. Should have.”

“Maybe, and I could’ve asked. But I kept comin’ back, didn’t I? It don’t matter now.” Jesse smiled a little, almost shyly. Forgiven, just like that. Hanzo let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding.

“What did they say?” Hanzo asked after a moment.

“Mostly just embarrassed me with how much they knew. Made me promise not to get in the way of your, uh, duties,” Jesse said. Hanzo risked a glance to find him staring out the window, working his jaw in the way that meant Jesse, too, was brooding.

“They worry about bloodlines,” Hanzo said, swallowing around the lump in his throat.

“Yeah, I gathered as much. Seems a little old-fashioned.”

“It is our way,” Hanzo said. It was difficult to explain without talking about the dragons; otherwise, it made them seemed archaic, not merely traditional. He felt strangely embarrassed by it. 

“I been around this place long enough. Nobody seems to care ’bout who anybody’s sleepin’ with unless it’s you or Genji.”

“It isn’t about that. If I am to lead, I must provide an heir. It is a mark of my... fitness.” His cheeks flushed. “It’s a leader’s duty to the clan. Ensure it lives on.”

Jesse snorted again, seemed torn between finding the whole thing absurd and trying not to insult him. Hanzo felt flustered, frustrated that he couldn’t better explain. “And if you don’t? I can’t imagine who’d be better suited.”

“Genji,” he said quickly. “Whether he wants it or not, there are elders who’d back his claim for that alone. If not him, there are cousins who’d happily take over. It’s not ideal. They want it to be me, but I must prove myself.” He looked at Jesse then, and for once he felt it for the burden it was. It wasn’t only a minor detail. The thought made his chest ache, and he looked away again, didn’t complain when Jesse lit him another cigarette to replace the one he’d let burn down. “Did they make any demands?” Jesse didn’t answer, and Hanzo looked at him sharply. “Did they?”

Jesse sighed, and the tic in his jaw returned. “No price I can’t pay.”


Jesse sighed. “Don’t ask, darlin’. I… had to promise it was between me and them.” Hanzo nodded then, left it alone even though it gnawed at him. It was only fair, he told himself. Hanzo had his dragons, and Jesse had his bargain, whatever it was. Jesse reached for Hanzo’s hand on the windowsill, stroked a calloused thumb across his knuckles. “Ain’t gotta hide no more. That’s somethin’.” Jesse looked at him then in that way that made Hanzo want to hide, made his chest feel heavy and pained. I think he would die for you, Azami had said. He wanted to smile, but the words rang in his mind.

“They think you’re theirs now,” Hanzo said, looking away. Surely Jesse knew it anyway. Hanzo could guess at what they wanted. Someone would have to pursue the information they got from their hostages, maybe shake down more Masuda. Better someone disposable than one of their own. He wasn’t trustworthy the way other guards would be, but as long as he was invested in Hanzo’s well-being, the elders would expect it to pay off. He thought about their captives too, wondered if they’d make Jesse take part in the interrogations, if they would test his loyalty that way. He wondered if they’d ask Hanzo to do it instead. He felt a little ill at the thought, didn’t have it in him to ask if Jesse had tortured anyone before. He didn’t think he could expect a straight answer anyway. 

Jesse stood quietly with him, staring at their hands. “You deserve better.” Hanzo flinched, and Jesse looked up at him, face serious and almost nervous. His voice was hushed when he spoke again, barely loud enough to hear. “If it ever… gets too much for you, I got friends who can help. You and Genji both. Places you could go—”

Hanzo looked at him sharply, cut him off with a bitter little laugh. Something about Jesse’s words got tangled up with the rest of the day, with the dark turn Hanzo’s thoughts had taken. He sneered, but he kept his voice down. “Are you going to carry me off into the sunset, cowboy?” Jesse flushed a little.

“Ain’t like that,” Jesse mumbled, but Hanzo wouldn’t hear it, words coming out in a rush right over Jesse’s.

“You suggest I give up my duty,” he snapped, “my birthright to, what? Become a mercenary like you, homeless and killing for my meals?”

“Got friends in higher places than that,” Jesse snapped back, and the look on his face was one Hanzo hadn’t seen before. “You don't gotta mock me. It ain’t wrong to want more for you.”

“I sacrifice what I must, and I will inherit the leadership of this clan in return. I don’t need saving from duty to my family,” he said.

“So you can spend your life runnin’ guns? Marry someone you don’t love to raise your kids to do the same?”

Hanzo’s lip curled in a snarl. “And your prospects are so much better? You kill for a living. You have no room to speak.”

“Mine ain’t a life sentence. Least I can imagine a future where this ain’t all there is,” Jesse hissed, and it made Hanzo’s teeth click hard when he clenched his jaw.

“You don’t understand,” he said finally, but it had no more anger behind it. He sagged a little, pinched the bridge of his nose. It seemed to suck the fight out of Jesse too. 

“Guess I don’t,” Jesse agreed, but his shoulders were slumped like he was worn out by it all. They both went quiet, the air between them still unpleasant. It was Jesse who broke the moody silence. “I know you don’t need rescuin’ from anything. Just. Know you got options. Ain’t much, but the offer’s there.” His voice was still tight, but it was an olive branch anyway.

Hanzo huffed, wordlessly took another cigarette and stared out the window. He suddenly didn’t know why he’d taken it out on Jesse. He knew Jesse was offering out of some irrational sense of honor, the same thing that drove him to give all his money to a prostitute, to show Genji kindness no matter how many times he had to fetch him from some foolish misadventure, to make some fool promise to the elders to stay with Hanzo instead of save his own skin.

And if Hanzo were honest with himself, he had been briefly tempted. Still was. He could imagine the place that Jesse came from, too hot to breathe properly, orange dust and a brilliant blue sky without walls to interfere with the view, nothing but a wide open horizon. He shut his eyes, but it burned brighter there. He finished this cigarette too, then dragged Jesse to the bed, pushed him down and kissed him until Jesse couldn’t breathe either.

Jesse tried to coax him into slower, sweeter kisses, but Hanzo knew where that led: to Jesse looking at him with that heavy gaze that made his chest ache, to his brand of intense, deliberate lovemaking that made Hanzo feel like he was going to be swallowed alive. So he pushed at him, bit at his mouth and jaw, sucked bruises into his collarbone. Jesse made a choked sound and closed his eyes, gave into the urgency and let Hanzo ride him ruthlessly, all nails and teeth and sharp snaps of hips. Jesse scooped him close after though, tucked Hanzo against his body and pet a hand down his arm. It made the dragons give a contented purr under Hanzo’s skin. It lulled him, and he breathed easier, sighed when Jesse pet a hand through his hair.

He could feel the weight of Jesse’s gaze, and he opened his own eyes. “Must you stare?” he asked, and Jesse laughed a little, traced a finger over the furrow between his brows.

“Can’t help it,” he said with a little hum. His hand moved, went back to tracing little circles down Hanzo’s arm, over the tattoo. “You still mad at me?”

Hanzo groaned, scooted closer to Jesse to hide his face in his neck. “I don’t think I was mad at you,” he admitted. “You were just… here.”

“Offerin’ you things you can’t accept,” Jesse finished for him quietly, and Hanzo could feel the scrape of his stubble when he turned to brush his lips over Hanzo’s temple. Hanzo didn’t say anything, didn’t have to. “Listen, I don’t wanna piss you off again,” he started, and Hanzo tensed, looked sharply at him. “Well, if it’s gonna end like that every time, I might not mind.” 

Hanzo broke in a helpless laugh. “Scoundrel,” he teased, and Jesse grinned, though it faded quickly into a more serious look.

“I gotta ask, though. The elders were real cagey in there, gave me the feelin’ there was somethin’ they really didn’t want me to know.” Hanzo tensed again, and he knew Jesse felt it, close as they were. “Like there was somethin’ they were afraid I’d seen after I… y’know…”

“Swooned into my arms?” Hanzo teased, trying to deflect.

“That ain’t how it happened!” Jesse laughed, gave his arm a little swat, then soothed it with a brush of his hand.

“That’s exactly how I remember it. I reported it just like that.”

Jesse laughed again, but it seemed he wouldn’t be distracted. “Did somethin’ happen after, though? Memory’s a little hazy after everythin’, but I know there were a lot of ’em. How’d you get everybody outta there?”

“You frightened our enemies,” Hanzo told him, stroked fingers down the side of his face. “They were scattered, easy to pick off. So afraid of the demon. They didn’t know you were so delicate that you fainted after a few gunshots.”

Jesse let out a self-conscious chuckle, and turned his head to kiss the fingers on his face. “Y’know,” he said, and Hanzo could still feel his hand on the tattoo, rubbing little circles. “I’ve heard my fair share about demons lately, but the guards that were there last night‘ve also been sayin’ some wild shit about dragons.”

Hanzo forced out a laugh, made his voice casual. “Do you believe you’re a demon now, too?”

Jesse didn’t take the bait this time, held Hanzo’s gaze too seriously. “They seem real impressed with you, maybe even a little afraid.”

Hanzo sighed. “I am the dragon,” he said. “I and Genji and Father. The clan leaders are the dragons, the same way you’re a demon. You bought us time, the rest was luck and a well-trained force. They’re too superstitious to give you the credit though, so they’ll say it was me. The Shimadas won; the dragons won.”

Jesse pressed his lips together, but he seemed almost persuaded. “So no… terrifyin’ superweapon?” Hanzo looked at him then, confused, and Jesse sighed. “Y’all ain’t hidin’ some advanced military shit? Nukes, bioweapons, omnics?”

Hanzo laughed again, more genuinely now that Jesse was farther off the trail. “Is that what you thought?”

“I dunno,” Jesse said, a strange look on his face. “Way people go on about dragons, I thought it had to be somethin’ big.” At Hanzo’s look, he said, “Don’t judge, y’all already run guns. Why not somethin’ bigger?”

Hanzo snorted. “Our clan has survived this long because we know how to temper our ambitions. The things you suggest would have Overwatch breathing down our necks.”

Jesse flushed at the answer. "So just a buncha scary-ass ninjas with a lotta fuckin' guns. Got it," he said, tone strange. Hanzo figured he was embarrassed by his assumptions, by the obvious answer. He kissed him to distract him again.

They didn’t fight again, and even with the freedom to leave it in the open, their days hardly changed. Hanzo stuck to his schedule, determined to prove he was mindful of his duties, and Jesse stuck to his own. Hanzo sometimes caught him smoking, with or without Genji, and he would stop in to flirt, Jesse grinning while Genji teased them both. Most nights Jesse came to his room, and Hanzo didn’t ask about the nights he didn’t, wasn’t sure he wanted to know.

But some nights Jesse came later than others, worn out and shaking. Hanzo learned to recognize the signs that Jesse had used his talent, the way he squinted in the low light of Hanzo’s bedroom, the way his hands trembled as he reached for him, the way he clung needily and went boneless when they had sex, fell asleep immediately after and overslept his alarm in the morning.

Hanzo didn’t ask again, but he didn’t have to. Whatever promise Jesse had given the elders, he was taking on missions he never had as a bodyguard. They were after something, and Hanzo didn’t know what. 

Chapter Text

The ride to Hanzo’s date was quiet, awkward. In an unimaginative stroke of cruelty, Jesse still had to accompany him, still had to act as bodyguard even for this. Cruel, and a test as well, one for both of them. Jesse had cleaned up and put on a suit again; he looked unbearably touchable and distant all at once, wore the jacket he’d bought on their makeshift date. Hanzo wondered if it was deliberate, a reminder. They hadn’t talked about this date, hadn’t needed to. When Hanzo shifted though, he could feel the ache from that morning. He’d had to pull his hair low to cover the mark on the back of his neck, and he wondered if Jesse had done that on purpose too: marked him, left him feeling sore, so he wouldn’t forget.

The elders had found a former classmate of Genji’s from their school days. Her family were not yakuza nor had any known loyalties, but they were an old name and wealthy, would know what it meant to join with the Shimadas. Her name was Aoi, and she had grown up to be lovely, with large eyes and a wave of silky brown hair. She looked like a flower in her expensive lavender dress.

Hanzo helped her from her car, smiling as he gently took her arm. He kept a polite distance from her body, but he lent her his arm. A severe old man accompanied her; he looked as if he could be related to her. Hanzo nodded politely and met his eye, let himself be measured by this man. Aoi laughed and leaned closer to Hanzo as they made their way into the restaurant. It was a pretty sound. “Don’t mind my uncle,” she said. “I think he likes you.” Her fingers slipped on his arm as if on accident, briefly stroked down the muscle of his forearm and touched the tattoo on the back of his hand. He pretended not to notice.

They talked over dinner, a glass of wine enough to break through Aoi’s politeness. They didn’t discuss anything important, only old memories from school, their hobbies and the surfaces of their families. She made Hanzo smile, and he wondered briefly if it was worse that he enjoyed her company. “You’ve become a very serious man,” she said. “It’s good to see you smile, even if it’s because I’m silly.” She smiled coyly at him then.

Hanzo smiled back, genuine, but he couldn’t bring himself to flirt with her. “You aren’t silly at all. But I’m told I am much too serious.”

“I suppose it’s your business that makes you so serious,” she said quietly, searching his face.

It was bold, here in public, under the eye of her uncle. He liked that she was bold. “It can be stressful,” he admitted, looking at her. “It is a difficult business for all involved.” He wondered how else to warn her what she would be in for, wondered if he should end this now and find someone less likable.

She nodded, seemed to take his meaning. “Yet you surely meet so many interesting people. Your chaperone is not Japanese.”

“American,” he said. “Interesting people do cross our path. Although we don’t travel much, if that’s what you mean.” She nodded again, barely perceptible.

She smiled to herself, seemed to be thinking. “Did you keep up with your Mandarin lessons, Hanzo? Languages are another hobby of mine.”

I did,” he answered in Mandarin, and she smiled at him.

My uncle didn’t,” she told him with a giggle. “He is very handsome,” she said then, looking at Jesse, then met Hanzo’s eye with a gleam in hers. “Almost as handsome as you.” Hanzo looked at her, waiting, and she trailed a manicured fingertip around the rim of her wineglass. “Are all your employees so good-looking?” Her tone was careful, and the second language made it harder to read.

We don’t hire for those reasons,” he said, trying to keep his voice light, but his throat felt dry. “But many of the guards are cousins and share my blood. Would you like to meet them to see how I measure up?” he asked, teasing, trying to distract her.

I’ve met your brother. It certainly runs in the family.” She looked at him carefully then, through long eyelashes. “Hanzo, I wish to be frank.” She smiled lightly, at odds with her words. Hanzo nodded, dread pooling in his stomach. “I know we haven’t seen each other in a long time and that you owe me nothing. But you are at least interesting.

Something clicked into place. “This is not your first such meeting,” he said.

No. I have met many men arranged by my family. You’ve taken me seriously. Most men find me silly.

They underestimate you,” he finished for her.

She smiled at him, and this one was not for show. “I believe we could be friends again,” she finished.

Hanzo smiled back, though the worry still sat heavy in his stomach. “I believe so too,” he told her honestly.

Good,” she said with another giggle. “But friends shouldn’t lie to each other.” At Hanzo’s hesitation, she reached out across the table, grabbed his hand. Bold, he thought again. “I have heard many rumors.” Her gaze flicked to Jesse and back, and Hanzo fought down a blush, wrestled down a little spike of panicked anger. “Don’t worry. As you see, I understand discretion.” She giggled as if she were still flirting, and Hanzo found himself impressed with her again. “But as your friend, I must confess I still hold out hope I can marry for love.

Hanzo nodded, didn’t move his hand away from hers. “I understand,” he said, relieved and weary all at once.

Perhaps in a few years I can be more cynical,” she said with a laugh. “Or you could reintroduce me to your brother, although I hear he will be hard to tame.” Hanzo laughed then, looking down. “I would be happy to meet with you again though. I like your company, and it may buy us both time.

Hanzo nodded again, smiling at her. “I think I’d like that,” he said, and he meant it. He was relieved to have found an unexpected ally, relieved that he would not have to either lie to her or marry her. He turned his hand over, cupping hers gently. Aoi’s uncle cleared his throat, and she slid her hand away, still smiling. A shared secret looked much like flirting on her face.

She leaned close to the table, a conspiratorial glint in her eye, although she did not touch him again. “If you meet with another woman, bring a different bodyguard,” she said slyly. Hanzo only looked at her, waiting. “A silly woman will find his looks distracting, and a clever one will see his jealousy.” Hanzo did blush then, and Aoi went on giggling.

Jesse followed him to his room after the date. Hanzo wouldn’t have blamed him if he needed time to himself, but Jesse stayed with him, although he chain-smoked at the window, didn’t fall immediately into bed. Hanzo watched him and ached.

“Didn’t know you spoke other languages,” Jesse finally said.

Jesse’s strangeness fit into place. He’d known Jesse knew more Japanese than he let on, knew a dozen other languages well enough, but Jesse couldn’t follow their Mandarin conversation any better than Aoi’s uncle. “Mandarin and Korean. Good for business,” he said. He wondered what it had looked like, how convincing Aoi had been if it bothered Jesse so. A clever woman will see his jealousy, she’d said.

They both went quiet, neither able to figure out what else to say. Hanzo stood to pull off his jacket and hang it. Jesse only kept smoking. It seemed he wasn’t going to ask directly about Hanzo’s private conversation, and Hanzo wasn’t sure whether to volunteer it, whether it would set Jesse’s mind at ease or only provide some new frustration.

Jesse finally said, “She seemed sweet.” It looked like it pained him to say it.

“She is, and an old friend,” Hanzo said, unsure what Jesse wanted him to say. He swallowed and moved closer to him, but he was uncertain whether he could or should touch. “But she isn’t you,” Hanzo said quietly, and Jesse’s shoulders sagged. When Hanzo reached out to touch one, just gently, Jesse tensed again, hung his head down.

“I just gotta get used to it, is all,” Jesse said after a moment. He didn’t elaborate, and Hanzo didn’t move closer.

“I am sorry, Jesse.”

Jesse made an anguished sound then, finally turned to face him. “Please don’t,” he said, grabbing Hanzo’s hand. “I’m not tryin’ to punish you. You ain’t the one that’s gotta be sorry.” He grasped Hanzo’s hands in his. “Hanzo, I…” he trailed off, eyes searching Hanzo’s face. He wore the expression that made Hanzo’s chest ache. I think he would die for you, said Azami. Be careful with him, said Genji. Jesse looked away, didn’t say whatever it was.

Hanzo broke then, told Jesse everything Aoi had said in their conversation, how she had pieced together rumors that never should have left the walls of the compound and offered Hanzo time, wanted only her own time in return. He looked increasingly relieved until Hanzo mentioned her warning. Plainly embarrassed, Jesse laughed at that. “Guess she saw right through me,” he muttered, ruffled a hand through his hair, and Hanzo pet a hand down his cheek. “Funny feelin’ to think she might be good enough for you.”

Hanzo laughed a little. “She’s too good. Not quite my type.” He tried to flirt now that Jesse understood, and he was rewarded with one of those slow, roguish little smiles.

They made their way to the bed after that, the date and tension forgotten. Jesse only spoke what sounded like Spanish though, some perverse payback for all he hadn’t understood. Hanzo didn’t comprehend the words at all, though he liked the way Jesse sounded, tongue curling deftly around the sounds so unlike his drawling English or clunky Japanese. He said something quickly, like he was afraid Hanzo would suddenly understand his nonsense, then smirked when Hanzo only stared at him. He repeated it then, over and over, the smirk gone and gaze heavy as he pressed the words into Hanzo’s skin.

He went on more dates, and Jesse controlled himself better, teasingly asked Hanzo how his poker face was holding up. Hanzo met two other women, both in some brilliant blue confection of a dress. He liked one and disliked the other, but between and after these other dates, he met with Aoi, who explained that he’d meet more women well-coached by their families into dressing in his favorite color and discussing business and archery with him. His visits with her were a blessed reprieve. They spoke together in hushed Mandarin. She didn’t pry about Jesse, but she said she liked him now that he didn’t scowl so much. She told Hanzo about her own other dates, ranging from the bland to the disastrous, and she teased him by asking after Genji’s love life.

Their time together was almost fun, despite the near constant reminder of the pressure behind them. They were a break from Hanzo’s usual schedule, and Aoi was funny, clever beyond words. When he let his mind wander, he could imagine raising children with her, imagined she would be sweet and patient, indulgent with mischief and serious with education. The thoughts always soured when he considered other arrangements they’d have to make, ways for both of them to be happy beyond friendship and parenthood. Those made it too real, and he couldn’t wish that sort of half-life on her.

Between his dates, Hanzo’s life continued much as it had, though Jesse’s nighttime visits were late more often than not. He showed up exhausted and often covered in the smell of stale sweat, on rarer occasions even the metallic tang of blood. Hanzo grew used to taking care of him, learned how to unlatch his body armor, how to dress minor wounds, how to ignore the pang of this secret hanging heavy between them. Jesse grew moodier, prone to foul spells and fits of chain-smoking brooding. Although Jesse was never rude or angry with him, always apologized and reassured him it was never anything Hanzo had done, he still learned how to read the moods and distract Jesse from his thoughts. Jesse rarely looked as if he slept well; it occurred to Hanzo that Jesse’s earlier state of disheveled had been something of a choice. Now he hardly bothered until Hanzo teased him enough about proper grooming. More than a few times, Hanzo had to wrestle him into the shower, or coax him with promises. He feared if Jesse failed to stay on top of his other duties, he would be dismissed. Less selfishly, Hanzo tried to ask if they should only sleep more often, but Jesse only kissed him until he desisted, insisted in between kissing and getting his hands inside Hanzo’s clothing that this helped, not hurt.

Jesse came back to him one night restless and fidgeting. It was unlike his usual exhaustion or moody behavior. Hanzo could see the wildness in his eyes, the mark of adrenaline not yet used up. He kept looking at Hanzo like he wanted to say something, but he kept his distance, quiet and jaw clenching. Hanzo tried to remain patient, but the silence grew thin between them, interrupted only by Jesse’s pacing. “You speak so many languages, and you have no words?” Hanzo asked, trying for a teasing tone, but it got caught by the weight in his chest.

Jesse didn’t laugh. “You know there are things I can’t tell you,” he finally said.

Hanzo swallowed. “The elders?” he asked.

“Them and… other things,” Jesse said, and he looked wary. He moved toward Hanzo, crowded him back a little, and briefly Hanzo thought it would be toward the bed. He realized quickly that Jesse had guided them out of sight of the window. He lowered his voice, quiet as could be in the room. “Please don’t get mad again, but I. I gotta.” Jesse huffed, frustrated, and rubbed a hand over his face. “I gotta offer again. I can get in touch with my friends—”

Hanzo pressed his fingers over Jesse’s mouth. “Please don’t,” he said as gently as he could.

Jesse nodded unhappily. He turned his head, freeing his mouth. Hanzo let his hand drop, and Jesse grabbed it again. “I’d never do anything I thought would hurt you,” he said, seemingly out of nowhere. Hanzo started, looked hard at him.

“Jesse, what—” He stopped at Jesse’s expression. He looked pained, miserable, worse than any night after using his talents.

Jesse looked down, ran a jittery thumb over Hanzo’s tattoo. “I need to know about the dragons,” he mumbled.

Hanzo jerked his hand back, unable to stop himself, and Jesse followed, pulled it back into his grasp. “I’ve told you,” he began.

“The truth, this time,” Jesse pleaded, and Hanzo couldn’t breathe, but he felt the spirits stir beneath his skin. “I wouldn’t ask if—” He stopped, clenched his jaw. “I need to know, and I need to hear it from you.” He still wouldn’t directly look at Hanzo.

Hanzo weighed the secrets they had shared and the ones they had left unspoken. He thought about his duty, and Genji, and Jesse’s own magic, and the way the dragons terrified him, left him tasting blood and ozone and feeling wild. He breathed deeply and he told Jesse the truth. Jesse listened, still looking miserable, but he nodded as Hanzo explained the spirits and their ties to the Shimada family, the way Hanzo could summon them. He told Jesse about the night in the warehouse, what he had done. Jesse pulled him close, one hand on Hanzo’s tattooed one and the other on his cheek. “You weren’t totally lyin’ when you said you’re the dragon,” he said with a sigh, and Hanzo shook his head.

“You believe it so easily?” Hanzo asked, gaze seeking out Jesse’s.

Jesse nodded, then laid out his evidence. “I believe I saw a warehouse housin’ a small army and we came out on top with no right to. I believe your family sent you for a reason, and it ain’t as simple as some bullshit about leadin’ from the frontlines. I believe every guard there that night’s in awe of you. I believe your family’s willing to believe in demons and magic, like they got some reason to. I believe every time I’ve tried to ask somebody, I get a different answer, or you distract me, like y’all have somethin’ to hide.” Hanzo flushed at that, momentarily ashamed that Jesse had seen right through him. “And I know your family’s obsessed with bloodlines, but they don’t seem to give two shits about two men together otherwise. Seen plenty of weird shit since I got here and plenty before now. Maybe that don’t all add up to spirit dragons, but it don’t add up to anything ordinary either.” The dragons purred at his acknowledgment, curling lazily just under Hanzo’s skin. “And, uh, maybe I dream about ’em, too.”

Hanzo swallowed at that. “You what?”

Jesse swallowed too. “Two of ’em, right? Blue like your tattoo, but big enough to eat a man whole.” Hanzo nodded. “Sound like a goddamn freight train?” Perhaps it was some strange memory from the night Jesse had fainted, something that crept its way in through short snatches, but it seemed unlikely. At Hanzo’s stunned silence, Jesse asked, “You know what that’s about?”

Hanzo swallowed again, pulse thundering in his ears as he shook his head. “Tell me about them.” Jesse told him, stories of half-remembered dreams where the dragons crowded in, scared him or fascinated him by turns. Hanzo didn’t know what any of it meant in words, exactly, but his mother had dreamed of dragons too.

Chapter Text

He woke with Jesse at his back, unyielding limbs octopused around him and light just beginning to filter through the window. It was tempting to burrow back into Jesse’s warmth, but he had morning routines to maintain and a lunch to attend with Aoi. He shifted, trying to free himself, and Jesse’s arms tightened around him. A hand slid over his chest, and he felt Jesse press up against him, half hard already. 

When he shifted, Jesse huffed out a laugh, warm against his shoulder, and slid his hand more purposefully, fingertips catching at Hanzo's nipple. “Mornin’,” he murmured sleepily, then pressed a kiss behind Hanzo's ear.

“Isn’t it time for your run?” he huffed, and Jesse rewarded him with a low rumble of a laugh.

“I’m thinkin’ of a different kinda workout this mornin’,” Jesse purred, hands leaving little trails of heat all over Hanzo’s chest and belly. Hanzo tried to roll his eyes, but the effect was lost with Jesse behind him. Fingers caught on his nipple, rubbed slow circles around it. Jesse’s tongue seemed to be doing the same thing just behind Hanzo’s ear. He arched against the feeling, and Jesse laughed low and soft, knew he’d won him over just like that.

“Fine,” Hanzo said, as if it were difficult. “But you’re doing all the work.”

“Sure thing, your highness,” he said, and Hanzo could hear his smug grin. He kept one hand on Hanzo’s chest, still toying with his nipple distractedly, while the other slid down. Dry fingers pet at the delicate skin on the inside of Hanzo’s thigh, then they curled around his cock, stroked lightly, teasingly, until Hanzo was fully hard. A thumb pressed into the head, gathered the fluid beading there, and Hanzo wrapped his hand around Jesse’s, tangled their fingers into a tunnel he could thrust into. Jesse laughed, pulled his mouth away from the magic it was working on Hanzo’s neck. “Thought I was doin’ all the work,” he said, hand slowing.

You are teasing,” Hanzo said on a frustrated note.

“Mighta just had other plans.” Jesse pulled his hand away entirely and Hanzo grunted. One long arm reached across him, snatched up the lube still close at hand from last night. “Wanna take my time with you,” he said, kissed the back of Hanzo’s neck. He seemed to realize Hanzo had stopped touching himself, and he brought their hands briefly together again, guided him back to slow, gentle strokes. “You don’t have to stop, but don’t rush it.” Hanzo nodded, and Jesse’s hand slipped away. He fumbled a little behind him, then a wet finger rubbed gently at his entrance, circling the sensitive rim. 

Jesse went slowly, patiently opening him up with first one finger, then another. His thumb traced gently along the rim while those two fingers pumped shallowly inside, working deeper little by little, millimeter by careful millimeter. It was maddening, but Jesse’s other hand splayed wide across his chest, mouth pressed against the back of his neck, and Hanzo slowly melted into it. By the time he felt the brush of Jesse’s knuckles against him, he was loose and languid, rocking his hips slowly back against him. The fingers inside him crooked and twisted, spreading him wider, and his head lolled to the side, made more room for Jesse’s roving mouth on his neck. “I love when you get like this,” Jesse breathed, then crooned something else at him. Hanzo still didn’t know what it meant, couldn’t have focused well enough to translate, but the sounds were familiar. Whatever it meant, Hanzo had heard it a hundred times now; it was Jesse’s favorite thing to say. 

Jesse’s fingers pulled out carefully, and returned again wetter than before. Two caught on his rim, and he felt the tip of a third join. All three curled and pushed, massaged their way past the muscle and inside again. Hanzo’s whole body felt loose and relaxed, and he could have easily taken Jesse by then, but these fingers went just as slow as before, opened him up gentle and patient, like they had all the time in the world, like Jesse would be satisfied with only this forever. The way he went on about it, mumbled words pressed against Hanzo’s skin, he might as well be. 

He sighed into Hanzo’s neck, and Hanzo arched against him again. Just as gently as they’d opened him up, Jesse’s fingers pulled free. It took only moments for Jesse to replace them, line up his cock. Hanzo let out a quiet, satisfied sound as Jesse slid inside, hooking a hand carefully under Hanzo’s thigh to keep him spread open. He worked into him with slow, easy rolls of his hips. He savored the stretch, the way Jesse slowly filled him up. When Jesse’s hips were finally flush against his backside, he rolled them again, got as deep as the angle would allow. He rocked carefully into him, in slow, shallow thrusts that made Hanzo breathe in little puffs. He worked his hand over his own length, picked up Jesse’s rhythm to meet his thrusts. He was careful not to rush, not after all Jesse had done to make it last, but he found himself making a low keening sound, his hand gripping a little tighter. Jesse caught on, changed his grip on Hanzo’s thigh and shifted, and little sparks went off behind Hanzo’s eyelids. Hanzo tried hard to keep Jesse’s careful pace, but he pushed back against him in earnest now, and Jesse mercifully obliged him with stronger, steadier thrusts at the same sweet angle. Hanzo went quickly enough after that, came into his hand with Jesse pressed deep inside him.

When Jesse was finished, too, and they had untangled themselves, he tried to wallow in bed, but Hanzo insisted that if he could get up after their activities, so could Jesse. Jesse groaned good-naturedly and tried to hold him close. “You are exceedingly lazy this morning,” Hanzo laughed.

Jesse harrumphed into his hair, a grip like iron around him, putting the lie to his insistence that he was still too sleepy to get up. “Stay,” he mumbled, but Hanzo only laughed at him and pulled free. They washed up together and brushed their teeth side by side, Hanzo trying to hide a smile and Jesse only watching him. Jesse kissed him when they were finished, big hands cradling his face. It was sweet, if a little irritating, the way he disrupted Hanzo's efforts to get dressed by kissing him again and again. Hanzo laughed at him, and Jesse only smiled the funny smile he sometimes got.

Hanzo paused, traced a thumb over that strange smile. It was too common these days; any reminder of work was enough to reveal the strain lurking behind his eyes, behind his wide grin. “We have an outing today. A break,” Hanzo reminded him, and it was funny that they'd reached this, a point where a date with someone else could constitute some relief for both of them. Something flickered over Jesse’s face before he kissed him again. It reminded him of the kisses Hanzo got after Jesse came back from a mission for the elders, the sort of aching thing that said he needed Hanzo. He pulled back, eyed Jesse to see if something was wrong. He asked.

“Just wanna spend the day with you,” was all Jesse would say. Hanzo hummed and let himself be manhandled and kissed while he tried to get ready. Whatever it really was, he could try to coax it out again later. When they were both finally dressed, Hanzo for his meditation and morning practices, Jesse for his run, Jesse pulled him close one more time, gave him another of his intense, languorous kisses, the kind that sucked the breath from Hanzo's body and made his knees turn to water. Hanzo finally got his head on straight enough to pry himself free, and he laughed again and pushed Jesse toward the door. Jesse left with a sigh, but he didn't laugh with him.

At breakfast, Hanzo was advised to cancel his plans. Genji glanced at the messenger, then scowled into his rice. It seemed the elders had called a meeting. They ate quickly then made their way to the audience chamber. They had a guest: a white woman, middle-aged, average build, simply average in appearance altogether. Had he been asked to describe her to someone else, he would have had some difficulty. Despite her plainness, something about her set Hanzo’s teeth on edge. It seemed Takeshi had invited her; perhaps it was only the association.

In stilted, strangely accented Japanese, she introduced herself as a representative of an organization called Talon. It seemed they had interests in Japan, and she claimed she had caught wind of their mercenary’s interventions with the Masuda. Nobody interrupted her speech to ask how or why, but Hanzo’s hackles rose anyway. This Talon offered them a chance to expand their operations, protection from the international interests that would surely attract. Hanzo watched Takeshi’s eyes glitter greedily, but their father at least seemed more cautious.

Hanzo thought again about the unmarked mercenaries, about the errands Jesse could tell him nothing about. Perhaps Jesse had rubbed off on him. At the end of her speech, Hanzo’s gut took over. “You offered the Masuda the same, and you lost your foothold here.” When the Shimadas took them down. When Hanzo’s dragons tore through Masuda and Talon alike. He wondered if they had seen somehow, if someone had escaped to report back. It would explain this organization’s interest in them, and was the very reason the dragons had been secret for so long. But the Masuda gunman Hanzo had questioned — what seemed like years ago now, though it had only been a couple months — had mentioned the dragons. They’d already known, treated them as more than a fanciful legend meant to frighten their enemies, and their first move had been to try to take one down. “You wish to ally with those who did it. Your loyalties shift easily.”

She looked at Hanzo. The whole room did. Her eyes weighed him down. “It is wise to have reservations, of course,” she said coolly. “We do not expect you to trust immediately. But you have proven yourselves formidable. We have much to offer each other.” She hadn’t denied it. She had a strange look on her face, something like a secret dying to be revealed. “We will of course allow you time to consider our offer. I have offered your Takeshi a show of our good faith, our loyalty.” She said the word with a funny twist to her mouth, as if she would spit it at Hanzo if she could. “You may find it illuminating.”

Their father assured her that the offer would be granted serious consideration, and she was dismissed, escorted out by the guards. Hanzo braced himself for a long debate; it was obvious what Takeshi wanted to do, and there were other elders who would follow his lead, let ambition and greed and the promise of an alliance get the better of them. Hanzo prepared his own thoughts, thought of all the ways to explain why they couldn’t trust this woman that could be laid out rationally, as more than a gut feeling. When Takeshi spoke, though, it wasn’t about the alliance at all. “Shimada-san, she brought us a gift last night. I believe it is most important.” He pulled a tablet from his robes, offered it to Sojiro, but his eyes were firmly on Hanzo.

Their father took his time perusing, but his face grew increasingly red, twisted into something frightful. “You have verified these?” he asked, voice cold. Takeshi confirmed it, and he seemed positively gleeful when their father thrust the tablet at Hanzo, told him and Genji to sit before him instead of beside him.

Hanzo went cold. With Genji peering over his shoulder, he scrolled through what turned out to be a dossier. On Jesse. The files were all damning, each worse than the last. One was a photo of Jesse, a few years younger, with an arm slung over the shoulders of a pretty blonde woman. The next was a photo of the same woman in an Overwatch uniform. Caption: Angela Ziegler. A candid shot followed, of Jesse with a dark-skinned man, both in black with a strange skull patch on their arms. Both were plainly drunk, a short stub of a cigar dangling from each of their mouths. Another headline identified the man as Gabriel Reyes, original commander of Overwatch. A grainy Mexican tabloid photo of Jesse with his arm around another pretty woman. His translator identified the headline: Alicia Santos and her new boyfriend? The headline that followed was from a month later, detailing how Overwatch had struck a massive blow to Los Muertos with key information from a friend of the Santos family.

He continued scrolling until his vision blurred, but he only grew increasingly numb. The photos should not have existed at all; save for the tabloid shot, these were all personal, the kind that surely filled the albums of Jesse's colleagues and friends. Someone had to have been close to get their hands on these, had to have known where to look from the start. But there they were, Jesse linked to one member of Overwatch after another. Got friends in higher places than that, Jesse had told him weeks ago. The words echoed in Hanzo's head, seemed to rattle around, refused to settle. The final picture would have been the only one that mattered; the others had only been salt to rub in the wound. It was the only picture of Jesse that wasn’t candid or personal, a snapshot of a paper file with a photo of Jesse, reasonably well-groomed, in an official looking blue suit. Most of the information was redacted before this scan was taken, but it listed a few things: Jesse McCree. Place of birth: Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S.A. A little bubble of hysterical laughter threatened him, but he squashed it viciously; the file told him Jesse’s birthday had come and gone here, without celebration. Hanzo had never asked for it.

Status: Active. These weren't only his friends. He wore the uniform himself.

“Do you see now?” Takeshi asked. Hanzo looked up. His father’s face was terrifying, pinned him to the spot.

“How can we be sure they aren’t doctored?” Hanzo asked, his own voice a strange, alien thing. Genji stirred beside him, cautiously put a hand on his arm. The weight of it was meant to be grounding, he knew, but distantly it felt too heavy, made his skin crawl.

“We tested them last night.” Takeshi said it, and Hanzo felt the words like ice in his veins.

“Just you?” Hanzo snapped back.

“All of us,” Kiyoshi said, too gently.

“Hanzo didn't hire him, you did. All of you,” Genji said, coming to his aid. “How did he pass the initial screening?” 

“Someone worked hard to place him here. Kiyoshi vouched for him, let this Overwatch agent into our home. She is either a traitor or a fool. And you.” Takeshi spat it out, pointed a crooked finger at Hanzo. “You let him into your bed. Who knows what secrets he learned from you?” Hanzo refused to flinch, but he felt it down to his bones.

The rest went by in a blur. Hanzo heard nothing, lost in his swirling thoughts. Jesse had done this before, infiltrated a powerful family, wooed their heir, and brought down an entire organization with the information he shared. He remembered Jesse's brash flirting, his own initial certainty that it was something he did regularly. Hanzo’s cheeks burned, shame and betrayal and hopeless denial storming within him. They’d shared a hundred moments that had felt entirely real at the time, so real that Hanzo had been afraid of Jesse’s feelings for him. How good an actor could he possibly be? But a poor actor wouldn’t have lasted this long. It would’ve been why he was sent at all. Hanzo thought about Jesse’s “poker face,” and anger bubbled inside him, warred with his desire to see Jesse.

He watched them deliberate, waited for their ruling. For a moment, Hanzo hated all of them, the elders and his father, even Genji with his fingers biting into Hanzo’s forearm. The effort to support him felt like another trap. Jesse had done this, he thought, marred Hanzo’s reputation among his own family, distracted him from his duties and let them tighten their hold because of it. Or perhaps they had been right, only had clan interests, his interests, at heart. They’d had every reason to distrust him, Hanzo knew now. Perhaps this was his mission all along: sow discord, expose Hanzo’s weaknesses as the heir, shake their trust. He thought of Jesse’s offer, his friends, and wondered if that was a lie, too. Tempting, to believe it had been an effort to confess, but it might have only been another gamble, meant to mark out Jesse as the sole person Hanzo could trust, isolate Hanzo from his family. He had witnessed such manipulations before, seen the devastating hold they could take over a person. He thought about Jesse’s unpredictable moods, how Hanzo had increasingly learned to step gingerly around them and take care of him, felt like Jesse needed him and overlooked the dependency he’d cultivated in Hanzo. The rage built inside him, threatened to set the dragons free, on Jesse or on the elders, perhaps both.

The sentence would be death, he was sure, no matter how Overwatch would react to it. It wasn’t something they could let stand. And Overwatch had to have known it, sent Jesse in as if he were disposable, used him the same as the clan had. He didn’t need to ask what they’d wanted. He remembered Jesse just last night, frantic and insistent that Hanzo tell him about the dragons. He remembered Jesse’s earlier belief that they were an altogether different kind of weapon, the kind that would draw the attention of Overwatch. Hanzo was a fool.

“I didn't even know his name,” Genji murmured quietly beside him, low enough that the arguing elders paid him no mind. It was enough to pull Hanzo from his tumultuous thoughts, to remind him that whatever Jesse had been to Hanzo, he had also been Genji's friend. 

Hanzo looked down at his hands, then at Genji by his side. “I did,” he said, and Genji looked pained, the fingers of his other hand twitching toward him as if to soothe, but he didn’t, only kept Hanzo’s arm gripped tight.

They sat in silence while the elders debated. Finally, their father spoke. “It has been decided.” Hanzo looked up, forced himself to meet his father’s eye. “Hanzo will determine the punishment.”

Genji shouted, ready to come to his aid again. His entire body was tensed, a coil ready to snap. Takeshi spoke, and Hanzo hated him. “You both wished to be involved in clan decisions,” he started smugly.

Sojiro cut him off. “You must correct your own oversight.”

Hanzo felt cold all over. It was another test, an obvious one, and his punishment as well. He clenched his hands against his thighs. Genji's hand on his arm practically vibrated with anger. He wanted to resist, but that was the result of Jesse’s lies, wasn’t it? He felt the weight of all their stares as they awaited his answer. “I will do it,” he finally said through gritted teeth.

“Stand, then, and we will bring him in.” Another stroke of cruelty, that he would have to look at Jesse’s face again. He did as he was told, turning his back to the elders. He caught sight of Genji, who looked murderous, but not at him.

The guards brought Jesse in, and he didn’t look as shocked as he should. A bruise was blooming on his cheekbone, and of course. Jesse might have been shocked at first, but he wouldn’t be now. Of all the things for him to have worn to such an occasion, his threadbare undershirt and red running shorts were so wildly out of place that Hanzo felt the hysterical laughter threaten to bubble up again. Two guards shoved him to his knees, and he had to catch himself on his shoulder, squirm his way back up to kneeling with his hands bound behind his back. It should have been humiliating, but none of it seemed to faze him until he realized that Hanzo was the one who stood over him. Hanzo caught the moment it registered; something like pain flickered over Jesse's face. His handsome face. He had encountered his fair share of beautiful traitors and cowards, but he was somehow still surprised that he could see it, surprised that Jesse wasn't revealed as someone ugly and twisted now that Hanzo knew. 

“Jesse McCree, Overwatch agent,” he said, voice far steadier than he felt. He pushed the tablet in front of him, still frozen on the file with Jesse in uniform.

Jesse’s face was as damning as any of the photos. His jaw worked silently, eyes flicking from the tablet back up to him. “Hanzo—” One of the guards made a sound in his throat, something like a snarl, and Jesse stopped. 

“Deny it,” Hanzo hissed. He wanted him to, might have believed him despite all evidence and all of his fury. Jesse swallowed and said nothing, gaze dropping to the floor. Answer enough. “Why were you sent here?”

Jesse only looked at him then, eyes soft and sad for a moment. Hanzo reminded himself that Jesse was good at this, had acted his way right into Hanzo’s bed, into his trust. Nothing Jesse did was believable now. He clenched his jaw and sneered down at him. The dragons stirred but sent no help, no sign of what it was they responded to. Jesse’s mouth opened and shut several times as if he intended to speak, then stopped short. Then he closed it one final time, and his face went unreadable, expressionless, eyes glazed and distant. He said nothing, his only further tell the tic in his jaw. “You offer us no explanation?” Jesse remained silent, gaze locked in his direction, but it was as if he looked through him. Hanzo thought about the uniforms, about all the hints that had screamed military training even when he’d trusted him, and he wondered if Jesse had been trained to resist interrogation.

“You offer me no explanation?” Hanzo asked, quieter, and a little wrinkle formed between Jesse’s eyebrows. Hanzo waited, but Jesse said nothing else.

Seething as he was, he couldn’t order an interrogation, was too weak for it as he’d always been. Neither would he reduce himself to begging it out of Jesse in front of the elders. They would all have to settle for no answers at all.

Hanzo swallowed, put his shoulders back. “The punishment for such a betrayal is death,” he said, and Jesse nodded imperceptibly, seemed to brace himself. One of the guards stood at the ready with his katana. It was Azami. I think he would die for you, she’d said. The sight of her sliced cleanly through the enraged fog in his mind, made Hanzo look hard at Jesse. He couldn’t know now which parts had been lies, but he’d known Jesse’s name, known about Santa Fe. A good manipulator would have mixed in some truth, made his lies sparse to better keep track of them, but he couldn’t have guessed well enough to lie about his dreams, nor understand their meaning, not when it was vague to Hanzo himself. The dragons stirred in Jesse’s presence even now. Hanzo wanted to look back at his family, but he knew it would read as weakness. He thought instead of Genji’s face, contorted with rage, but not at Hanzo and not, he suspected, at Jesse. He thought of Genji’s face in the alley months ago, drunk and ashamed and vulnerable. He thought of Overwatch, not with anger this time, but with a cool reason: this was their agent, and they were sure to retaliate. 

He thought again of the dragons, thought again of Jesse's dreams.

“You saved my brother’s life,” Hanzo said, and he heard a sharp intake of breath behind him. “And mine. Whatever else you have done, some of us still understand debts, honor.” Jesse looked at him again, finally, eyes focusing and impossible to read. Poker face. Both dragons purred, their conflict resolved, and Hanzo felt the weight in his chest. “For those two lives, you get two days. Leave Hanamura. Leave Japan. Do not return.” Hanzo looked at him, knew it would be the last time he saw Jesse McCree. A small part of his brain remained stunned at his own voice, steady and powerful. “If you are still here in two days, if you ever return, the orders are to kill on sight.”

Chapter Text

Hanzo stumbled into the apartment. It wasn’t his; he was squatting. But it was his enough. Now that he was here, in relative safety, his breaths came short and fast, hands sweating and a pressure curling in his chest. He felt light-headed, vision blurring at the edges. Genji.

It wasn’t possible. His brother was dead, had been slain long ago by Hanzo’s hand, the worst of his many sins. Hanzo sank to the floor, back against the wall. He pressed his shaking hands to the wood paneling beneath him and began cataloging each piece of the room. One chair. A table. Arrows in need of repair. Two guns, one disassembled for cleaning. A knife. Two bottles of sake, one empty, the other half full. A small potted bamboo plant, a ribbon around it. It wasn’t there when Hanzo left. He shut his eyes and felt the floor beneath his hands, focusing there instead. When his breathing returned to normal and he trusted his legs, he stood again, moved shakily to the kitchenette to put a kettle on.

That thing could not have been Genji. But it had known his name, had manipulated Hanzo’s dragons and called Genji’s green one. It had fought like Genji, or like Genji should have if he’d been more attentive to his lessons: quicker than Hanzo, more agile, furious and impatient. Hanzo had seen his brother’s eyes and the traces of Genji’s face behind a ragged network of scars. Perhaps I am a fool to think that there is still hope for you, but I do, it had told him. It called him brother. His hands shook again and he breathed, forcibly slow, in through his nose and out through his mouth.

Over the years, before and after he’d left, the Shimada clan had gotten increasingly twisted. His father’s illness had left cracks that Takeshi had filled with all manner of filth. They had taken on darker trades, human and omnic trafficking, war profiteering, and the power it gave them meant they wouldn’t look back. Takeshi was the first one Hanzo had killed after Genji, but the rot inside the clan had taken hold even without him. Perhaps it was part of Hanzo too. There had been rumors off and on of strange medical experiments. He wondered if this thing were one of those, wondered if the undead could still summon its owner’s dragon. It seemed too fantastical, but so did seeing Genji at all.

Hanzo stood still, and he breathed. He focused on the task of preparing tea, let the ritual guide him, mind carefully blank. He did not address the plant until his tea was finished steeping. Next to the plant was a small phone and two handwritten notes. He inspected the phone; it appeared to be free of any contact information, anything at all. The first note was in blocky, cramped writing, like someone with poor penmanship had taken great pains to be legible. It instructed him, in English, to memorize the number provided and destroy the note. Call when you are ready. Use no other phone.

The second note was in kanji, and Hanzo reeled to discover the familiar, scratchy slant of his brother’s handwriting. To any other eye, it would have been nonsense, but Hanzo remembered the key. It was from childhood, just after their mother had died. They had passed notes, shared feelings best left unspoken and memories their father could not tolerate. Hanzo closed his eyes again, breathed. He took a sip of his tea. Then he began to read.


I have worked to forgive you. I am still working. I am offering you a chance to earn it and to forgive yourself. We have need of people with skills like yours. Call the number using our code. Join me, and we will watch over the world.

Instead of his name, he’d drawn a tiny bird. Sparrow. There was more, a postscript written in haste and without the code. It instructed him to take his time, to be more than only a killer for a time. To enjoy himself.

Hanzo studied the first note, the one in English, then he burned it carefully in the sink, washed the ashes down when he was finished. He pocketed the phone and the note from maybe-Genji. An eerily accurate impostor if he were not Genji. Hanzo wondered briefly if it were possible to program an omnic with that level of detail. He thought of the lights on the thing’s suit, wondered if it was a suit at all. But he had never seen an omnic with a human face, with eyes so like his own. An omnic could not control dragons either.

He drank his tea and mused on the postscript. The note had been easy enough: Overwatch. If Genji were alive, truly, they would have had the resources to have saved him, especially back at the height of their power. They had been interested even before the Shimadas turned to darker things. They could have remained there watching. It made a certain sense, although it was news to Hanzo that they were still active. The organization would be illegal now, dangerously without oversight. He knew firsthand some of what they had done even with oversight. Perhaps Genji hadn’t been saved at all, but turned into some experiment, as dark as any other rumors he had heard. But Overwatch would have answers, whatever they were.

The postscript though. It was mysterious in its own way. How perfectly like Genji to be most cryptic when he thought he was speaking plainly. 

Whatever it all meant, they had found him. Not only in the Shimada compound but here in his temporary home. They were probably still watching. He finished his tea, cleaned the cup and service. He set them by the window to dry. He did not bother to rush — they were already watching, it hardly mattered — but still his skin itched while he packed. He missed the dark curl of smoke under the door. He heard the creak of a boot on the wooden floor though, and he turned swiftly, gun in hand and trained quickly on the stranger’s head.

The stranger was all in black leather, wearing a bizarre skull mask. Perhaps it was meant to intimidate, but Hanzo had already faced down one devil this night, was more in his element now than he had been when alone with his thoughts. Adrenaline pumped through him, burst through the fog and braced his earlier shakiness. His hands were steady. He said nothing, but he readied the chamber, let the stranger know he was prepared to shoot.

“Overwatch was here,” the thing said in a growling, mechanical voice. It was deep, likely a man’s voice behind whatever gave it that grating metallic sound.

Hanzo was silent at first, but he saw the tiny red dot trail the wall before it presumably aimed at his head. “You aren’t alone,” he said, and in his head he mapped the room, considered how quickly he could get out of sight of the window before the sniper pulled the trigger.

“I’m not,” said the thing.

“What do you want?”

“Only to talk,” it — he? — said. It moved in a curl of smoke to the chair near Hanzo, took a seat as if it belonged here. It propped its heavy boots on the table, and Hanzo got a glimpse of muscular legs beneath the outfit, half clouded by the smoke. Bipedal at least, with strong muscles, or some approximation thereof. Human, he figured, despite the mechanical sound of its voice. The smoke continued to confound him, though it brought to mind his earlier thoughts of medical experiments. Hanzo’s gun never left its head. “Our organization could use a man of your skills.”

“I work alone,” Hanzo said.

“We compensate well.” It examined its strange clawed gloves. “Your work has been impressive, but we could make you stronger, better than you are now. Good enough to take back your home. Good enough to kill the thing that masquerades as your brother, and those who’d manipulate you with him.”

Hanzo hissed quietly. This thing had been watching too. “And if he is my brother?”

It shrugged. “Unlikely. But we can protect him, if so. Restore him.”

It looked at him expectantly, and he felt its eyes, if it had them, weighing on him. “Who is ‘we’?”

“You have met us before. A group called Talon.” Hanzo snarled. He thought of the woman many years ago, with the files that had revealed the depths of Jesse McCree’s betrayal, of Hanzo’s own stupidity. “You remember,” it said with a laugh that raked unpleasantly over every nerve.

It was clever, a reminder of what Overwatch had done to him right as they’d come recruiting. His hand trembled, briefly and minutely, but his grip on the gun didn’t falter. “What do you want from me?”

“Only your talents,” it said.

“My talents.”

Hanzo knew what it meant before the thing said it aloud. “The dragons,” it confirmed.

“They are not slaves to petty human whims. They nor I simply come when beckoned.”

“You’ve taken jobs before. This is another. The world is changing, Shimada,” it said, a perverse echo of Genji’s words. “Overwatch has its own ends. They won’t protect you. They will use you like before, and then they’ll die like before,” the creature growled then, metal voice seething. “They’ll take you and your false brother with them.”

Hanzo glared, mulled it over. He didn’t trust this creature, the wrongness of it more unsettling than the thing that called itself Genji. Yet its words about Overwatch’s betrayal wormed under his skin. He thought, too, about the sniper and the heavy guns the creature carried; he thought about what it would cost to say no. “I have had enough of ghosts for one night. Give me time to think on your offer.”

The creature grunted in a way that was almost human for a moment. “Time, then.” It sounded displeased, if unsurprised. “You don’t have much. You will have to choose a side…” It trailed off, and Hanzo watched the red dot move wildly along the wall before it disappeared, heard thumping in the hall outside his door. The thing growled, moving to its feet in a billow of smoke, knocking the chair back. Hanzo kept the gun trained on its head, moved back out of the window’s line of sight. His door crashed open as the creature melted fully into a cloud of smoke, gone in an instant.

Left in the ruin of Hanzo’s door was a wild-haired white woman who cursed creatively in English. “He’s gone,” she snapped, a hand to her ear. Comms, Hanzo thought, gun now turned on her. “Uh,” she said, looking at him, then holstered one of her guns. “Hiya!” She waved, smiling brightly.

“Get out,” he snarled. Her already-large eyes went wider, and she was gone, a blur of bright light. Hanzo wasted no time after that. He left through the bedroom window, and if he watched over his shoulder the whole way to Tokyo, he doubted anyone would blame him.

It seemed nobody followed, at least not right away. If they had, he could have lost them in the massive city, much easier than in Hanamura. He considered leaving the country, but he doubted he could book transport without both Overwatch and Talon keeping track. He would be followed wherever he went if they were so invested. The movement of the city gave him some anonymity at least, let him remain alone in ways even the wilderness couldn’t have provided. And it was closer to home than if he’d tried to lose them somewhere else, somewhere less familiar to him.

So he stayed in Tokyo, a city that was part fortress against omnic assaults, part gleaming monument to the country’s place in both past and future, and part filthy chaos in its underbelly, as any metropolis was bound to be. He bounced from hotel to abandoned apartment, from shiny uptown high-rises to tiny, rat-infested holes, until he determined that if they were still following as well as they had, this would do little to stop them. He found a clean but modest rental owned by a lovely old widow who asked few questions, and he organized his few belongings. He thought of the encounter with Genji and the creature often, and he reread Genji’s note. Enjoy yourself. He did his best to comply. He didn’t take on another bounty, didn’t hunt yakuza. He dipped into the funds he had preserved, carefully managed in several accounts, and he got a haircut. He pierced his ears, then the bridge of his nose. He bought new clothes, clothes that weren’t for business or tradition or designed for movement. He ate junk food only to discover he wasn’t particularly fond of it, except the occasional sweet. He played video games in an arcade and ignored the stares of the young people around him. He walked in the park only because he could, and he read for pleasure. He smiled carefully at the men who eyed him in bars, even accompanied a few to their homes, though he learned quickly that one night stands were no more satisfying now than they had ever been.

He lived his days, briefly, as if his life had always been so simple. But the itch of being watched still followed him. Between his routines and his tiny adventures, if he stopped for too long, the panics followed too. His nights were still plagued by nightmares, the usual where he killed Genji over and over, and new ones filled with devils and omnics and smoke and a red dot aimed at his head. He dreamed of Overwatch and Talon, dragons tangled in a wicked dance, and himself crushed between their coiled bodies. Sometimes he dreamed of his crimes, of killing Takeshi, of killing Azami — although he hadn’t, not her, she had disappeared after he’d killed Genji, the first of a handful of loyal Shimada guards to leave. He dreamed of killing Kiyoshi, who had died an old woman’s death in her sleep only months before his father passed. He wondered, as he often did, if she would have supported the order to kill Genji, or if she would have demanded something subtler. He dreamed of the hundreds of nameless Shimada and other yakuza and mercenaries he’d killed, businessmen and politicians he’d taken out for jobs or his own vendetta. He dreamed of Jesse McCree too, memories of sentencing him blurred with dream sequences where he’d let the dragons eat him, or they refused until Hanzo took up his blade and killed him with his own hands.

He dreamed of Jesse, on his knees for other purposes, mouth slick and hot and alive, his voice inexplicably still in Hanzo’s ears, purring out words he would never understand. There were eyes watching, all around, the pressure in his belly competing with the pressure in his sword arm. The eyes silently demanding that he use the blade in his hand. He woke before he knew what he chose, simultaneously half-hard and in a cold-sweat panic. He felt lightheaded, reminded himself of his surroundings until he could breathe properly again. He got up, made a cup of tea. He hadn't thought of Jesse McCree in years, had shoved those memories down. He knew they'd been stirred again by his recent run-in with Overwatch. Still, it brought a dull ache to his whole body to remember: he had spared this man after his betrayal, then killed his brother for the far lesser crime of seeking freedom. The tea would not be enough; he left the cup untouched, reached instead for a bottle of sake.

He knew he could not blame Jesse for all Hanzo had done, but it had been the catalyst for all that transpired later. Or perhaps it was only coincidence; perhaps Talon would have involved themselves with the clan anyway, Takeshi would have let his greed get the better of him, would have manipulated them all down greater and darker paths. Hanzo had stopped wondering, long ago, whose fault it was. None of it erased his own culpability. But things had changed after Jesse's betrayal. The clan had demanded an explanation of him, how he dared spare the life of a traitor. Before the elders, he'd laid out his rationale that Overwatch would have an excuse to attack them outright if they killed an agent, an excuse to shine a global spotlight on the Shimadas. In private, he had told his father about Jesse's dragon dreams. Sojiro had called him foolish, told him it meant only that Hanzo had let down his guard, lost control of them. There was no deeper meaning, no secret the dragons had tried to reveal, only Hanzo’s own weakness.

Takeshi’s son had taken over as Hanzo’s bodyguard, though the title was now a mere formality. Handler was more appropriate. Koumei knew Mandarin and leered at Aoi, and Hanzo’d had to end things with her. She had been kind, of course, and as cool toward his new bodyguard as she had been warm toward Jesse in the end. He dreamed sometimes that he killed her too, but she was alive and well. She had married, for love, a young politician who credited his strong proposals against yakuza operations — predominantly illegal weapons trades and white-collar crime — to his brilliant, passionate wife. Once, years ago, Hanzo had tracked an assassin, put an arrow through his throat as the man drew his gun, closer to Aoi than competent security ever should have allowed. He had watched as Aoi, fearless as ever, stood over the body, tried to track the trajectory of the arrow to its source, as if she knew. Already far from where he had taken the shot, Hanzo had watched her argue with their security detail and the police; she’d wanted the arrow as a token, but she had been forced to give it up as evidence. She had three children now, and a fledgling political career that might one day outshine her husband’s. Yakuza whispered among themselves about the demon archer, and they left her family alone.

The Shimada clan had sent Hanzo out on assassination missions too, tested his dedication to the clan and the cause with kill after kill, Koumei always at his back. Genji had grown ever more rebellious, refused his duties and disappeared for days at a time, far less willing to return with a bodyguard who served only Takeshi. He had directed his anger at Hanzo, long before the end, accused him of cowardice and a weak will, accused the clan and their father of manipulation, and Hanzo of being too proud and too spineless to refuse. He had been right. Hanzo knew it, but he had not figured it out until after. In the present, Hanzo’s mind shied away from the details of Genji’s murder, focused instead on Genji’s eyes behind an omnic’s faceplate, on the strange green lights that illuminated him. Hanzo drank until the images blurred, drank until he could fall into a deep, blessedly dreamless sleep.

In the morning, he still meditated, still practiced kata in the cramped loft. He showered and trimmed his beard, checked that his newest piercing was healing cleanly. He considered what adventure he should go on today, but he found within himself a restlessness that mere movement couldn’t banish. He tried anyway, put on sunglasses to hide his hangover and took a slow, meandering walk around the small nearby park. He made a strange woman smile when he asked to pet her dog, and he pretended not to notice the way her body tensed up when his sleeve slid and she saw the tattoo on his wrist. He ate ramen at a small stand, and he almost missed Rikimaru. He returned to his apartment after lunch, pulled out his tablet, and ran queries on Aoi, on Hanamura, on Overwatch, and then, hesitantly, on Jesse McCree.

He dreamed of a green dragon who gutted him alive. His entrails spilled out, but they were not entrails at all. They were the people he had killed, and those he’d only lost, Aoi and Kiyoshi, Azami and his father and Jesse, spilled from his belly, half devoured like he was the dragon. His jaw ached, and he saw Genji, bloodied and brutalized, exactly as he had been when Hanzo killed him, collapsed on a pile of corpses. Genji’s voice rang in his ears, told him he knew how to make it better. He awoke from the dream, panting and hands clawed in the sheets. He stared at the ceiling and he breathed, forced himself to focus on the feeling of the sheets under his hands, the stickiness of sweat cooling and drying on his skin. He touched his face, the bridge of his nose, where the metal reminded him that he was here and real and in his own body again.

He knew he wouldn’t sleep again this night. He considered the sake. He pushed himself to a sitting position, and before he could think too hard about it, he grabbed the old blank phone and punched in one of the numbers he had memorized at the end of his last life.

“Hello?” Someone answered in English. The voice was deep, probably male.

“Hello,” he answered, unsure what else to say.

There were sharp clicking sounds on the other end. He had interrupted some work, or the man was tracking the phone, Hanzo assumed. But they had been watching him anyway. Finally the voice asked, “How did you get this number?”

Hanzo grew more comfortable. This kind of careful speak was not unfamiliar to him. “An old acquaintance left it for me,” he said. The voice hummed. “Three months ago.”

“Where?” the voice asked.

“A place I was visiting, in Japan.”

The man on the other end hitched a quick breath. “You waited some time to call,” he finally said. “Have you accepted the offer then?”

Hanzo hadn’t fully thought it through, had been putting off thinking too hard about the decision. He knew he wanted to see the thing that called itself his brother. But Overwatch, he remained unsure of. “No,” he said, deciding the truth couldn’t hurt here. “But I am… open-minded. I wish to see my acquaintance again.”

The man hummed again. “He is away. On business. He’ll be happy to know you called.” Hanzo pressed his lips into a thin line, thinking. “Someone will meet with you tomorrow.” Tomorrow. So they were still watching, and closely.

“I want to see him,” Hanzo said, growing irritated.

“I’m sure,” said the man, not unkindly. “But he is away. And you must understand that we are… cautious.” The tone remained calm, kind as it could be. Hanzo swallowed. “Someone will meet you tomorrow. Don’t call this number again.” He gave Hanzo an address and told him to ditch the phone. Then he hung up.

Chapter Text

Hanzo stared, reviewed the address in his mind. It was a bar, one for tourists, friendly to the Western palate and aesthetic. It made his skin crawl, and he didn’t fully know why. He could leave, he figured. He had come early, perhaps hadn’t been seen yet. He didn’t have to go inside. But the conversation last night made it clear: this was what he must do if he wished to solve the mystery of Genji. There was no telling if it was his only chance. 

He went inside. It was quiet for a bar, but there was enough noise that any conversation could go unheard a foot beyond the table. It was full of tourists, people from all over. Few strangers would stand out here. It was smarter than he had assumed from the outside. He looked about him, but the only people watching him looked only briefly interested in his appearance. They all looked away quickly, interest satisfied with a glance. He ordered a drink and found a table to himself in a corner, where he could see the door and the bar reasonably well.

He had tossed the burner phone as expected, scattered it in pieces around the city. Now he could only wait. He drank a cheap whiskey that did little to soothe him. He thought about Overwatch, what they represented in his past and potential future. They had infiltrated his home — perhaps even with some good intentions, given the things that transpired after. Even so it didn’t strike him as the sort of thing heroes did. He had been raised in the clan though, was used to businesspeople and politicians with shiny reputations and skeletons in their closets. Perhaps Overwatch was no different, but Hanzo had little desire to work with another gang. It wasn’t the impression Genji — maybe-Genji — had tried to give. He had offered redemption this way. It was as much a puzzle as Genji himself.

Hanzo knew the contact when he saw him. He almost left. He tried to leave, but his feet stubbornly refused to move. If this had all been another ruse, he could have killed Hanzo before he could react, sitting frozen as he was. “This seat taken?” he asked, mouth pulling to the side in a little grin. Anyone watching would think he was flirting.

Hanzo’s muscles tensed as if to leave again, but he felt weighted to the bench. “No,” he said, unsure if it was an answer or a protest, and Jesse McCree slid into the booth across from him.

Jesse was alive, almost as impossibly as Genji. Hanzo had known it already — his searches had uncovered the bounty — but the sketch had hardly been recognizable as the man he’d once thought he had known. It had left him ill-prepared for the sight of him in person. He was thicker across the shoulders and chest, had a beard where there had been scruff before, looked like his nose might have been broken once. He had a metal hand now too, but he also had the same wild hair, the same heavy-lidded brown eyes, the same wide mouth and slow, lopsided smile. The dragons thrashed at the sight of him, while Hanzo sat utterly still, wrestling with an anger that had lain long dormant.

“Fancy meetin’ you here,” Jesse said. Hanzo pulled his eyes away to look at the door, scan the room, half expecting to see Genji, or his father, any other ghost from his past. Then he looked at him, appraising. Jesse wore a red plaid shirt, buttoned down under a brown jacket. He wasn’t obviously armed, but the jacket could have hidden more than one weapon. It was the safer assumption, anyway.

“Is this a joke?” Hanzo finally asked, breath rushing out with the words. Overwatch had sent Genji, or a shade of him, to recruit him, and now they sent a walking reminder of everything they had done to him.

“See? I told him you’d be suspicious.” Jesse sighed, ruffled a hand through his messy hair, and the gesture was familiar enough that it sent another angry spike through Hanzo. “It’s no joke. I’m here to talk. On behalf of our organization.”

“Your organization,” Hanzo said, eyes narrowing. Hanzo had guessed that Jesse could be part of Overwatch still, or again, although the scant reports he had found through his digging turned up little to suggest it. He had seen the bounty though, and he wondered again how Overwatch truly operated if they worked with wanted criminals and former yakuza. Was it a built-in willingness to ignore the rules? Pragmatism or desperation? “Why you?” 

“Was his idea, you know,” he said. “To send me.”

Hanzo didn’t need to ask who Jesse meant. Genji, or this thing that called itself Genji, had sent a strange peace offering, or more likely a reminder to Hanzo that he’d done far more than kill his brother. Hanzo asked, “And they agreed to it? Or you did?” It was an odd choice to send him, but he remembered how Jesse had killed a man just to get the Shimadas’ attention; Jesse was no stranger to bold gambits.

“I agreed. Not above doin’ a favor for a friend.” Of course. If Genji had been rescued by Overwatch, he would have spent time with Jesse. They might have been friends for ten years now. They had always gotten on well, even before. “He figured you’d take it poorly if we waited to spring it on you til you were halfway across the world. Think of it as a show of good faith,” Jesse said. He looked away then, ran his hand through his hair again. “And ah. Maybe had my own reasons. Might be I owe you an explanation,” he finished, and Hanzo almost laughed. Nostalgia and anger tangled together inside him, grew bitter barbs that nearly choked him, and no sound came out.

“It has been thirteen years. That door is closed,” Hanzo said finally. The dragons curling under his skin said otherwise, but he couldn’t trust them around Jesse any more than he could trust the man himself. Hanzo ignored them and scowled into his drink as he took a sip.

“Fair enough,” Jesse said, then excused himself to get a drink. He came back with three cradled carefully together. He slid one across the table to Hanzo, just halfway, not quite breaching the space between them. “Listen, I know you’re smart. Prob’ly got a lot figured out. But I’d like to tell you anyway.”

Hanzo scowled again. “You’re meant to be recruiting me, are you not? The past shouldn’t matter.”

Jesse sucked in a breath, took a heavy swig of his drink. Unrefined as ever, Hanzo thought. “Maybe I think they’re related.” He waited, didn’t take Hanzo’s silence for permission. They sat quietly, sipping their drinks, and Jesse’s eyes on him made something curdle inside his stomach.

“No,” Hanzo said finally, pushing his glass aside and grabbing the new one. “It changes nothing.”

Jesse let out a long breath, looked for a moment like he was in pain. “Okay. I just figure if we’re gonna work together, you should know—”

”I am here for my brother. That is all.”

”Fine,” Jesse said. “Fine.” He took another swallow of his drink. “But you weren’t a mark.”

Hanzo felt something inside snap, and he snarled at him. “That changes nothing,” he repeated. He clenched his hand around his glass, forced himself to remain calm. After a moment, he said, “I told you I don’t wish to discuss the past.”

If Jesse was surprised at his outburst, it didn’t show. He was plainly frustrated though, however much he tried to laugh it off. “Yeah, okay. Had a whole speech planned though.” 

“I’m sure you did,” he said, and Jesse had the sense to look away again, almost looked ashamed. “Skip to the part of it that explains why you’re here now.”

“Part one: it’s really him. Figure you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t believe it at all, but it... You know I would know.”

Hanzo grunted. “You’ll forgive me if I remain skeptical of your claims.”

Jesse pressed his lips thin, but he nodded. “You wanna know how I know, or is that too much of the past for ya?” Hanzo thought about it, felt it scraping something raw inside him, and he waved his hand for Jesse to continue, unsure he could trust his voice. “Ain’t the right place for every detail, but he was in the... hospital, had been picked up by some of our people and brought in for a friend of mine. She’s a doctor, saved his life. You’ll meet her if you come with.” Hanzo looked at him sharply then, considering it. “Thought you’d like that,” Jesse said, half-smiling until Hanzo’s flat stare made him stop. “Anyway, I’d heard where the new guy got picked up, and I had to see for myself. He still had that shitty green hair, but it was growin’ out by the time I saw him. He didn’t cover up so much back then either, so I saw his face right off. Didn’t like me much at first, but at least bein’ mad at me got him talkin’, and he remembered everythin’ about me. He remembered stories about those times I had to go chasin’ off after him—”

“Enough,” Hanzo said. It was too close to talking about the other memories, and it was nothing Hanzo could verify just yet. 

“It is him,” Jesse said again, and Hanzo looked down at his drink. 

“When will I see for myself?”

“You gotta come with me,” Jesse said, and he nodded. “Can’t control what he does, but nobody’s gonna want to let you near him again without, uh, supervision.”

Hanzo clenched the glass again, focused on his breathing. It made sense, if he trusted any of this. They wouldn’t want to lose an asset to Hanzo’s temper. If Jesse wasn’t lying, maybe some of them were even his friends; they might actually care about Genji. “Right,” he made himself say. He wasn’t allowed to be insulted by that, at least, but he could remain angry that they had made Jesse McCree the gatekeeper. “I’ll do it.”

“You should hear the rest, the reason why it had to be me.” Hanzo looked back at Jesse, eyes narrowed, but he didn’t stop him. “I know it’s temptin’ to do this just for him, but you can’t. You’re about to be halfway ’round the world, and they got expectations of you. They expect you to join, not just show up. And a lot of ’em are real white hats, actual good guys. Any of ’em would give you a pretty speech about savin’ people, doin’ the right thing, and they would mean every word of it. But none of them know what it’s like to’ve been one of the bad guys.” Hanzo flinched, and Jesse looked at him, a sharp, measuring look. “I do. You saw what I did back then. Did worse in my youth, before I got recruited. Did worse after too. I did the dirty work, the stuff the white hats never wanna think about. So did your brother. He and I are all that’s left of the scoundrels, though. Nobody wants to pull those kind of ops any more either, and that’s prob’ly for the best. But it means none of the others know what it takes to hunt for redemption and wind up back in the mud over and over. Only worth it because every dead bad guy’s another way to balance your own sins. So I’m not here to tell you we can save the world for its own sake. You ain’t gonna join for that anyway. But you can’t join for him either. If you join it’s because you’re tryin’ to save your own soul.”

Hanzo let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding. His hands were steady, but only because he gripped the glass in front of him. He looked at the man before him, at the hard look in his eyes, and he wondered if he was finally seeing Jesse for exactly who he was, the man beneath the charm and the lies. Hanzo finally nodded, slowly. He swallowed. “I’ll come with you.”

There was no point in remaining in Tokyo after that, and if Talon were still watching half as closely as Overwatch, they should hurry. Jesse drove him back to his apartment, didn’t bother to pretend he needed directions. They parked a few blocks away for the sake of discretion.

Inside the building, something was off. Hanzo could sense it just outside the door to his apartment. He heard a scuffing sound, and he shot a hand out at Jesse, stopping him in his tracks. He pointed at the door and eased his jacket up, got his gun free of its holster. Jesse followed suit, pulled a gun from behind his belt, and Hanzo almost smirked, knew he’d been right about Jesse coming to meet him armed. He heard another sound, this one behind them; someone had followed them into the building. He shoved open the door and shot the first person he saw, then pulled it closed again, ducked back to the side of the doorway. “Three,” he said, “tac gear.” Jesse nodded from the other side of the opening, then took aim at one of the two coming at them in the hall. Both wore helmets, just like those Hanzo had seen inside, and they jerked at Jesse’s shots but kept coming.

A bullet grazed past him, and he heard one of them curse, heard them say “alive,” and he grinned. “You stay,” he said to Jesse, and he entered the apartment. Something loud went off just behind him, the hallway going bright enough that it would have blinded him. He didn’t have time to think about Jesse though, could only move swiftly as possible to the first enemy, grappling their body between his own and the others. He shoved the barrel of his gun into their armpit, where the tactical armor couldn’t protect them, and he pulled the trigger. They screamed and the body surged against him; they weren’t dead, might not die right away, but the shock left them limp and heavy against him.

He grunted, held them upright as he aimed for the other two, using their shoulder as a brace for his shots. They couldn’t get a clean shot, and if he’d been right that they wanted him alive, they wouldn’t aim for the head. He saw Jesse barrel into one, and he took another shot at the other, watched them scramble into the bathroom to get away. He dropped the heavy body he held, kicked their gun away and drew the knife at their belt. Armed with both, he took down the person in the bathroom, quickly disabled them and slipped the knife into the peek of pale skin between the helmet and suit.

He joined Jesse back in the room, found he had disarmed and pinned the person beneath him, yanked their helmet off. It was a man, still thrashing under Jesse, who had his metal hand shoved in his mouth. “No way,” Jesse snarled. “Ain’t done with you.” Hanzo went to take care of the other, pulled off the helmet, found an older blonde woman underneath, a scar down the side of her face. She was dead already, foam mingled with the blood on her lips. He didn’t know her, hadn’t really expected to. “Goddamn it,” he heard Jesse say, and he looked over to see the man beneath him seizing, choking on something unseen.

“They wanted one of us alive,” Hanzo said. “We know that much.”

Jesse grunted and got to his feet, yanked his clothing back into place. “Y’don’t want ’em to take you alive.” Hanzo raised an eyebrow at that, but he let it be for the moment. “Surprised you didn’t go for the dragons.”

“I couldn’t be sure they wouldn’t eat you,” he answered, and Jesse seemed to find it funny.

“Savin’ me again already? I’m flattered.”

Hanzo grunted and said nothing. They searched the other bodies, dragged the two in the hall into the room, but they found nothing helpful. Jesse studied their faces, seemed as though he was trying to memorize them. He said they were definitely Talon, and Hanzo couldn’t disagree. The poison in particular had given them away. “They tried to recruit me before.” Jesse only nodded, and Hanzo snorted. “You were there.” It wasn’t a question.

“Took out that sniper.” Hanzo didn’t say anything else, just went to get his things. “We need to get movin’,” he said.

“Once I have gathered my belongings.”

“We don’t know if they got backup,” Jesse said.

“Then I will kill them too. But I won’t leave my things.” Jesse stared and Hanzo ignored it, examining Storm Bow and its case to be sure nothing had been damaged. He had lived enough of a transient life, and he had no desire to start completely anew with Overwatch. He also had no desire to explain himself to Jesse. “If you wish to speed the process, you can help me pack.” Jesse grunted, but he did it, insisting that they check each item for tracking devices as they went. It didn’t take long; despite his insistence, he didn’t have many possessions, mostly weapons and clothing and the cases in which to carry them. Jesse seemed vaguely amused that he cared so much about the clothing though, and Hanzo tried not to let the sight of Jesse running his hands over his things bother him.

On the way out, he left a note for the widow who owned the place, slipped it under her door. She had been kind to him. He deposited credits in the machine beside her door, left an extra few months’ rent and enough to pay for the damages. Jesse watched him, head tilted to the side and an odd look on his face, and Hanzo felt strangely like a specimen under study.

Jesse carried one of his bags to the car, and he double-checked the vehicle for any sign it might have been tampered with. He tapped something out on his cell phone then got in the car. Jesse drove them out of the city, and they both kept their guns ready to draw. After a while, when it became clearer they weren’t being followed, Jesse seemed to relax. He squirmed out of his jacket, and Hanzo saw that the metal wasn’t just his hand but went up past the elbow, the sleeve of his shirt rolled up and bunching where metal met skin. Despite himself, he wondered how Jesse had lost it, wondered at the long skull carved into it. It was rude to stare, but it reminded him of the years since he had last seen him, made him grow irritated at his own curiosity.

Hanzo finally broke the silence, but he didn’t address the arm. “Why me?”

Jesse looked at him sidelong, seemed cautious. “Whaddya mean, why you?”

“Overwatch knows what I’ve done. I’m not so foolish as to think they stopped watching us once you left.” Left seemed a funny word for it. He had been banished, threatened with death if he returned, at Hanzo’s command.

“Genji thought it’d be good for you. Both of you.”

Hanzo snorted. “Has Genji risen so high that his desires go unquestioned?”

Jesse sucked in a breath through his teeth. “Not unquestioned,” he admitted. He seemed to weigh his options, and Hanzo refused to look away without an answer. “But we need people with the kinda skills you got. Lotta things we can overlook for someone with your talent, and for a pair of dragons.” 

They will use you, the creature had told him. Hanzo remembered how Overwatch had sent Jesse alone to infiltrate the clan, hadn’t withdrawn him when the risks began to mount. It seemed they were willing to overlook Jesse’s obscene bounty, Genji’s yakuza upbringing, and now they would overlook Hanzo’s sins if it meant they could have the dragons. Hanzo sneered a little. “Are they so low they’ll accept fratricidal assassins then?”

Jesse worried his lip. “Mind if I smoke?” Hanzo waved him on, didn’t take one when Jesse offered. Jesse cracked the window, and the car filled with the smell of it. It was more pleasant than the cheap cigarettes he’d used to smoke before, fragrant and spiced. “I get the feelin’ that sugar-coatin’ anything will just piss you off,” Jesse said.

“Indeed. So will dodging my questions.”

“We’re real low on personnel. We need people, emphasis on ‘need’.” Hanzo snorted again. “We follow any leads we got to recruit whoever we can. Take whatever we can get, and the dragons could make up for those numbers. Ain’t an insult to you. I know what you can do. So does Genji.”

“You’re also both familiar with what I have done,” Hanzo said sharply.

“Yeah well. Talk to Genji ’bout what he thinks of that. What I know is you fight like a devil, can sharpshoot least as well as me — which, by the way, ain’t a small feat — and by all reports you’ve gotten better since I last saw any of it in person.” Jesse looked sidelong at him again, took in his silence. “We all know what you did to Genji. That ain’t goin’ away. But he’s willin’ to forgive, and I.” He stopped briefly, drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. “I saw what it was like, the seeds of it. It couldn’t’a been—”

You do not get to psychoanalyze me,” Hanzo snapped.

Jesse breathed out hard through his nose. “Fine. But I know there’s more to you than that one thing. You turned on that whole nasty clan, afterward, been cleanin’ up gangsters and crooked sorts ever since. Don’t matter the reason or the scale, you’re already in the same business we are.” Hanzo watched the smoke curl around him before the window snatched it away. “And I remember you weren’t all bad before all that,” Jesse said, quieter.

“When I was a rube?” he sneered.

“When you saved my life.”

Hanzo scoffed, looked away. “Is that how you remember it?”

“What? You think I don’t know you pulled a stunt back then?” Jesse laughed. “In anybody else’s hands I’d’a been a dead man. You, though. You told ’em to go fuck themselves with their own rules. Way I heard it, you saved me and your people back in that ambush, too, carried my sorry ass to safety. That’s twice you saved my life. Genji said things didn’t go so hot for you after I left. Figure if anything—” He huffed a little, seemed to change his mind mid-sentence. “Yeah, I owe you.”

“I’m not here to collect debts. Or discuss them.” Jesse let it rest, and Hanzo continued to watch the smoke curl around them. He didn’t know how to respond to that, but he wondered. Wondered if Jesse McCree lived with memories that made Hanzo out to be some tragic, romantic hero instead of the bitter ex-lover who had sentenced him to death for his betrayal. He looked at him through the smoke. The dying sunlight glinted off the hair on one arm, the metal of the other. “How did you lose your arm?”

“Traded it to a magician for some favors,” Jesse said lightly. It seemed he was done giving straightforward answers, but it eased some of the tension even as it reminded him of Jesse’s old tall tales. “Soothed all my aches and pains, gave me billions of credits, and I ain’t ever gonna age, gonna keep this handsome mug forever.”

Hanzo snorted, answered in spite of himself. “It’s wasted behind that beard. You should’ve asked for a trip to the barber.”

Jesse ran a hand through the scruff, metal fingers scratching along his face. “Some of us didn’t get to take a vacation to pretty ourselves up,” he grumbled good-naturedly.

“So it would seem.” A vacation, Jesse called it. He thought about how Jesse had driven straight to his apartment. “You watched me.”

Jesse smiled a funny smile. “Off and on, just keepin’ tabs.” Hanzo pinched the bridge of his nose, wondering which parts Jesse had watched. He wondered if Jesse had seen him pick up men in bars, go back to their homes or cars. It made him want to squirm. Jesse seemed to sense the awkwardness, broke the silence again. “Watched you pet a lotta strangers’ dogs, if you must know. Real funny to see a mighty assassin brought down by a puppy.” Hanzo couldn't help but laugh a little, and Jesse grinned wide. “Nice haircut, by the way.”

“You could use one,” Hanzo said, and Jesse shrugged, still smiling. They both went quiet again after that. It wasn’t exactly companionable silence, but it was easier than before. Hanzo watched through his window as the sun sank past the horizon, the sky a suitably violent clash of oranges and purples. He’d accused Jesse once of trying to steal him off into the sunset — off to Overwatch, as it turned out — and the irony was not lost on him now. That they instead drove askew, with the sunset off to the side, seemed fitting. He let his eyes close as it grew dark.

He dreamed he rode a dragon, gliding smoothly over the sea. It was peaceful, almost, the movement a gentle lull, until he realized he was the dragon, felt the wildness rolling through his veins. He saw prey below, and he dove with a fierce joy, captured it in his jaws. It was Jesse, who called his name as he snapped down, sharp teeth breaking him into pieces.

He jerked awake in the car, Jesse’s face too close to his own, Hanzo's fist caught in his metal grip. Hanzo startled, nearly punched him with the other hand. Jesse pulled back, and Hanzo realized he’d been trying to shake him awake. “Shit, you gave me a scare,” Jesse said. “Tried callin’ your name first, but you were in deep.” Hanzo swallowed and straightened up. “We’re here.”

Wherever here was, it was unfamiliar. It was dark out, with lights only far in the distance. A strange hum filled the air, some kind of machinery nearby that drowned out the sound of any wildlife. Jesse turned off the car but left the key on the seat. “Let’s go,” he said, moving around back to retrieve their things. Hanzo let Jesse hand him his bags, then followed him down a path. He saw a shimmer in the air just before they broke through the shield. It was a hyperjet, military grade, hidden behind some kind of cloaking device. Inside the cloak, the noise was much louder.

A young woman stood at the open end. Hanzo recognized her from his apartment in Hanamura. “Well, c’mon! Haven’t got all night!” They boarded with her help; she moved quickly to help them stow the bags, then she shut the door.

“This is Lena,” Jesse said. “Our pilot.”

“Cheers,” she said brightly. “Welcome to Overwatch, Shimada-san.”

“Hanzo,” he replied.

“I don’t wanna rush you, but the shield’s on a timer.” She looked reproachfully at Jesse, who only shrugged. “Take a seat, and we’ll be off!” She hurried to the cockpit, and Hanzo felt the whole aircraft vibrate around him as he buckled in. Jesse took another seat nearby. Near enough to talk if they wanted to, but he gave Hanzo space, too. Hanzo said nothing anyway.

They lifted into the air, and the lights dimmed around them. After a long silence, he watched Jesse pulled out a cowboy hat and a tattered red shawl of some kind. He draped it over himself, pulled the hat down over his eyes, and seemed to doze off that way. Hanzo tried to do the same, but it took much longer. Genji, he reminded himself. This was to figure out what happened to his brother, if it were truly him at all. He watched Jesse sleeping and he wondered. If it was a lie, he couldn’t guess at their endgame. 

He dreamed again of dragons, one of his own blue and Genji’s green, others in red and the violent sunset clash of orange and purple. He was trapped in the center of their vicious, chaotic battle, all five demanding his allegiance. You must choose a side, growled a grating, mechanical voice. 

Chapter Text

Hanzo woke once during the flight and Lena offered him a slightly moist sandwich prepared for the trip. He ate and looked at Jesse, who had shifted somewhat in his sleep, had awoken at some point to fetch a bottle that now dangled from his metal fingers. Lulled by the strange hum of the aircraft, Hanzo dozed off again, dreamed of flying, a dragon on the hunt again, though he blessedly found no prey. They arrived while Hanzo slept, and he exited into a hangar bay clearly meant to house more than the one aircraft. Jesse had disappeared, left Lena to guide him to his room. She still moved quickly, in short, jerky little steps, as if she had to consistently remind herself to slow down. In his room, he set down his things but wasn’t able to unpack. “You’ll have to meet Winston first, then check in with Dr. Ziegler. It’ll be a few days before we have everything in order, so you’ll have plenty of downtime after.”

“Is Genji here?” he asked her.

“He’s away,” she said, taking in his frustrated look with an unreadable one of her own.

She guided him to meet Winston, who was, it turned out, both the voice he’d spoken with on the phone and also a gorilla. He took it in stride, processed as only a man with dragons under his skin could. Lena took an official photo for his identification, one in which he stared flatly, mouth and jaw firm. She announced that it suited him, and Winston shuffled paperwork around. “Is Genji here?” he asked Winston.

“He’s away,” he said.

Hanzo scowled and pushed the paperwork back to him. “I won’t sign until I see my brother.”

Winston sighed. “Agent McCree said you’d agreed to join.”

“Agent McCree didn’t ask when,” Hanzo returned, holding back a snap. They argued, briefly and with a restrained politeness, but Winston would not tell Hanzo where Genji was, and Hanzo would not sign until he saw him. Left at a standstill, they agreed: Hanzo would sign on once he saw Genji and was certain of him, and Winston was confident enough about the arrangement that he made no other change of plans. Hanzo would act as a contractor, even if he wasn’t an official agent yet. He was reminded of Jesse’s talk about Overwatch’s need, wondered if he should have asked him for more specifics when he’d had the chance.

Lena brought him to Dr. Ziegler, ushered him inside and left him alone with her. He was startled to find that he recognized her. It took some time to realize he had seen a picture of her long ago, a young Jesse McCree’s arm thrown over her shoulder. She had been laughing in the photo, lovely and happy, but now she was cool and distant, a consummate professional as she gave him a physical. She didn’t try to make small talk. He respected it, but something about her demeanor nonetheless put him off. In the end she declared him fit for duty and then some, in better physical shape than men half his age. 

“Where is my brother?” he asked her after.

“Away,” she answered, clipped.

Something about her commitment to cool professionalism told him something else lurked below. He thought he might get more from her than the others, if he pressed. “Is that the only answer I will get?” he asked. 

“Yes,” she said. “You must pardon our hesitation. You’re not yet an agent, and the last two times you saw your brother, you tried to kill him.”

He swallowed and nodded. At least she said it aloud, unlike the others. “Do you treat him?”

She looked at him with her eyes narrowed, measuring. “Yes.” She didn’t like him, he thought, and it was almost a relief.

“How is he?” He didn’t know what sort of answer to expect from her. But she had been honest and forthright so far.

“As well as can be expected from a man who needs machinery to breathe,” she said sharply. Then she took a small breath, pursed her lips. She looked again at Hanzo, whose stricken expression made hers soften a little in return. “Patient confidentiality doesn’t allow me to tell you much, but he is well.”

“Was it you?” He made himself ask it, even though he feared the answer. She only looked at him, confused. “Jesse said I would meet the doctor who...” He waved a hand, unable to continue.

“Yes,” she said. “I treated him then too.” She looked at him for a moment. “If he gives permission, I can tell you more. But not before.” She paused. “I should not have said what I did before. It was unprofessional.”

Hanzo stared at her a long time, tried to imagine her saving his brother’s life. He wondered if they were friends. “And... as his colleague, not his doctor. How is he?”

Her face went softer still, as if she had seen something in Hanzo that surprised her. “He is well,” she said again. “He’ll be back soon enough. He will be happy you’re here.”

Hanzo nodded and thanked her. It wasn’t much, but it would have to be enough for now. He left the room and let Lena give him the grand tour. She carefully guided him away from the darker, dustier corridors, led him along the bright-lit paths of the facility. The place was far too large for the few people he saw, a relic of Overwatch’s former glory. Most of them stared at his introduction, a few with poorly hidden suspicion, but most only with open curiosity. Jesse wasn’t among them either. Lena finally took him back to his room, where he unpacked and secluded himself.

He considered another nap, but he had slept too much before and had no idea what time it was here. Instead he meditated, though he grew impatient with the thoughts that crowded in, dreams and memories and a thousand questions that refused to allow him any distance. He practiced kata in the cramped space, as he had in the apartment in Tokyo, and the movement stilled his mind better than the meditation had, but only barely so. He showered off the sweat and the travel in a tiny stall. The water would not get as hot as he needed, left him feeling slightly dissatisfied. He groomed his still-damp beard in the mirror, free as it was of any steam, and he contemplated the reflection, wondered what it was these others saw.

He dressed in the small room, took in the space. There were no windows, but it was better than a soldiers’ barracks, he supposed. He had briefly assumed he might have to sleep in a communal space, but he had a bed and desk of his own, a closet and a few shelves, even a small gray loveseat, as if he were expected to entertain guests. There was no kitchen, but Lena had shared with him how others made up for it with hot plates and electric kettles. They might still have a few in storage, or he could put in a request for the next supply run, she had told him. She hadn’t said he couldn’t leave, but it was implied.

The thought unsettled him, made him restless. He had never been fond of so many walls, and he'd grown accustomed to traveling as he pleased. He decided to test it. He went back through the fluorescent hallways. Lena had not shown him the exit, but it was easy enough to follow the glowing safety signs. He only saw one other person, a startlingly young man, dark-skinned with long dreadlocks; he didn’t stop Hanzo, didn’t even speak, only waved at him with a cautious smile.

Hanzo was struck again, as he walked, at how empty the whole place felt. He passed more hallways darkened with disuse, found locked doors that appeared undisturbed for some time, if the dust gathering at the threshold was any sign. He wondered what this place had been before, if it had been full and bustling once long ago. He finally found the door, conveniently marked with a gleaming green, English “EXIT”. A chart below it listed the same in every language Hanzo knew and presumably the same in all the languages he didn’t, scrawled out in Chinese and Roman characters, in Cyrillic and Arabic and shapes he couldn’t begin to guess at, all the same glowing, exuberant shade of green as Genji’s dragon, the color his hair had been long ago.

The door opened for him with only a hiss of air and some mechanism whirring deep within the walls. He half expected it wouldn’t, or that an alarm would sound. He was greeted by the smell of salt air, and he pressed on, found himself at a cliff’s edge, water crashing against a beach far below. He didn’t go far, and his earlier plans of walking took a backseat to this. He sat with his legs dangling over the cliff, and he stared at the reflection of the sun on the water until his eyes began to hurt. It had been some time since he had seen the ocean from anywhere but a plane. The sun was warm on his skin, beckoned him to pull his jacket off. He watched several fishing boats bob cheerfully in the distance, and their motion lulled him, let him find the calm space between his breaths, the brief peace that had eluded him in his morning meditation.

He didn’t know how long he sat, but eventually he heard the whir and slide of the door again, heard boots crunching heavy on the rocks and smelled sweet, spicy smoke. He didn’t turn around, and he heard the boots perform a strange, indecisive shuffle before Jesse finally sat, uninvited, next to him on the cliffside. “Am I not allowed out without an escort?” Hanzo asked without looking at him.

Jesse hummed to himself, breathed out a cloud of smoke that the breeze stole away. “Go wherever you want, within reason. Athena’s keepin’ tabs on us all.” Hanzo grunted. Lena and Winston both had explained this Athena, their AI. He wondered how close she was to omnic levels of self-awareness, wondered how Overwatch justified it, given their previous purpose. 

“So you aren’t here to spy,” he said, and Jesse snorted. 

“No. You’re gonna have a hell of a time gettin’ back inside if they didn’t put you in the system yet, though.” Hanzo hummed, thinking, and he looked at Jesse then. The ends of his damp hair curled, especially around his ears. He had showered and changed into a different plaid shirt, a blue that stood out flatteringly against his bronze skin. He had cleaned up his beard too, shaped it after Hanzo’s insult, or maybe only because he was home. In the bright light, Hanzo could see the fine lines that crinkled the edges of his eyes, and he looked away again, glaring out at the water. He wanted him to be ugly, after all he had done, and Jesse had stubbornly refused, had aged well as if to spite Hanzo or the rough life he’d lived or the people who had tried to kill him, maybe all of them. The dragons stirred briefly, seemed to agree with his assessment. “Thought you might like it out here,” Jesse said.

”Stop speaking as if you know me.” Jesse put his palms up in surrender and wisely said nothing. Hanzo squashed the irritation, let his curiosity lead instead. “If you insist on following me about, you can at least tell me where we are.” He watched a sea bird he couldn’t name catch the breeze above them.

“Figured somebody woulda told you on your tour. You didn’t just look it up?”

“They took my phone.”

Jesse grunted, and Hanzo felt his eyes on him. “Watchpoint: Gibraltar, right on the Rock. Welcome to the Mediterranean.” 

“Gibraltar,” Hanzo repeated. “I should have learned Spanish.”

Jesse snorted, and Hanzo turned to find him grinning to himself, head down like he didn’t want it to be seen. “Never did learn, huh?”

“I had no reason to.”

If the barb bothered Jesse, he didn’t show it. “Most folks in town speak English anyway. Get better deals and blend better if you can speak both though. They got a local language that’s tricky without it.” Jesse went quiet, and Hanzo listened to the waves, breathed to their rhythm, the smell of salt and brine and spicy smoke settling him and the dragons. He caught himself looking down at the denim over Jesse’s thigh, thick muscle straining the worn fabric beyond what it should reasonably contain. Hanzo scowled and looked back to the water, but his temporary peace was already broken by Jesse’s strange smile and his obscene taste in blue jeans. 

“Got somethin’ on your mind?” Jesse asked.

“Nothing I wish to discuss with you,” Hanzo said, and Jesse looked at him for a minute, hummed to himself as if he absolutely refused to take offense.

“Well, I do. Mighta had an ulterior motive, joinin’ you out here,” Jesse said, squinting out into the sun.

“How unlike you,” he said wryly, and Jesse just shook his head.

“I know you don’t have any reason to trust me, and I don’t expect you to. But if you’re gonna hang around, might at least settle you to hear my side of things. Doesn’t have to be right now, stop freakin’ out over there.”

Hanzo tensed again, glared at him. “I am not... ‘freaking out’.”

“I guess you just look like you’re gonna push me off the ledge for fun then.” Hanzo only kept glaring, and Jesse looked like he was working to rein in his expression. “Listen, it’s no rush. You gotta settle in, it’s fine. Just figure it might make workin’ together easier.”

”There’s nothing you can tell me that I haven’t figured out for myself.”

”That so?”

He looked sharply at Jesse then. “I don’t have to learn a whole language to figure out two words in thirteen years.” Jesse sucked in air through his teeth, refused to meet his eye. “You said I wasn’t your ‘mark’. If I was, you’re a worse spy than I thought. It changes nothing.”

Jesse scrubbed a hand over his face, and then he just laughed, dropped his hands in his lap and stared at them. “Yeah, you got it all figured out, don’t ya?” Hanzo bristled at his tone, left with the impression it was meant to be an insult. “You ever get tired of comin’ to your own conclusions, you could try askin’.” He took a breath then, gave them both a moment, and when he spoke again, the bite was gone from his voice again. “I really came out here to say I ain’t gonna lie to you. About the past or the present. You should know what’s goin’ on around you. Some shit’s classified, or I don’t wanna talk about it, but I can at least say that much instead of lettin’ you wonder.”

“I distinctly recall you telling me you got your arm from a magician.”

Jesse snorted again, more relaxed now. “Okay, other than that. Truth is, I don’t talk about that with anybody. Might shock you to learn it’s not a great memory. Still won’t lie about the rest.”

“You feel some remorse over lies you told years ago, so you offer me the bare minimum for basic teamwork. I’m honored.”

“Figured the bare minimum’s more’n you expected of me.” Jesse got to his feet then, trying to brush the dust from his pants and only succeeding in sending it swirling about. 

“Wait.” Hanzo followed him to his feet, grabbed at his shirt sleeve to still him. Jesse indeed stilled, tensed and watching. “You said you would tell the truth. Where is Genji?” Jesse started to open his mouth, but Hanzo tightened his grip on his sleeve. “If you say ‘away’, I really will push you off the ledge.”

Jesse laughed at that. The sound squirmed under Hanzo’s skin, burrowed into his chest. “He’s on a mission. He’ll be home soon.”

“Where? How soon?”

“Somewhere in Nepal, and I dunno.” Jesse shrugged, and Hanzo let him go. “It’s pretty safe, as missions go. Just a recruitment job, but he warned us it might take a few weeks.”

“A few weeks,” Hanzo said.

“He didn’t know if or when you’d agree to join, Hanzo,” Jesse said with surprising gentleness. “He tried to wait you out, but there was no tellin’ if you’d come around, and he’s the only one for this mission. Ain’t anybody’s fault, just bad timing.”

Hanzo sighed, but at least Jesse had told him something. “Thank you,” he said. Jesse let him back inside but didn’t follow him in. Hanzo went back to his room.

Hanzo found little to do in the days that followed, but he built a routine out of what he had. In the mornings, he meditated out on the rocks, facing the sunrise as it climbed up over the ocean. When Winston realized this was all Hanzo wanted from going outside, he warned Hanzo not to go too far past the perimeter but helpfully gave him some access to Athena. He still wasn’t granted the door code, but he could request entry from her, and she could recognize his face and voice enough to allow him inside. He followed meditation and kata with tea and breakfast, making do with cheap instant oatmeal most mornings. Neither were impressive, but the base had enough English tea and oatmeal to survive a nuclear winter, so Hanzo figured those were for everyone. One morning Jesse made everyone a breakfast of eggs, bacon, and a baffling little porridge he called grits. He served it all with coffee so strong it was practically chewy. Hanzo found it all too salty and too rich so early in the day, and he fought the childish urge to spit it out when he caught Jesse watching him eat. He put in a request for an electric kettle and proper tea, as Lena had suggested, and within the week, Jesse delivered both to his door. Hanzo tried not to be suspicious, but it must have shown; Jesse tiredly explained that he and Lúcio were the ones who ran most local errands, nothing more. 

After breakfast, Hanzo took to the practice range then the gym. He showered before lunch and read after it, whatever he could find on the shared bookshelves in the rec room. The selection was odd, books in dozens of languages that ranged from literary classics to romance novels to college textbooks, a makeshift library scraped together by hundreds of people with equally varied backgrounds and interests. Another reminder that Overwatch had once been something greater than the paltry few who’d answered the Recall. The team ran drills or sparred in the afternoons, and Hanzo learned quickly that while he was out of practice working with a team, particularly one in which several members seemed to distrust him with a weapon, he had much to offer teaching hand-to-hand combat. For the most part they even listened, seemed to trust the expertise if not the person. Still, they adjusted faster than he would have guessed. It took a little over two weeks before they finally stopped dancing around it, only listening to his advice, and let him out onto the mats with them. 

Hanzo grinned as he pinned the body beneath him, felt the pull of powerful muscles straining under him, unable to dislodge him, barely able to move. “Enough,” Fareeha said, almost laughing, and Hanzo moved, lent her a hand so she could pry herself from the mat. She brushed herself off, breathing harder than she’d probably like him to know. She asked for his critique, a question that still made him flinch inside, brought up hazy memories of his family’s eyes on him as he took down Genji, month after month for years on end.

He kept his face smooth, eyed her. Together, they walked back through each of the steps. He showed her where she’d gone wrong, showed her what he’d done in response and what she could have done to correct herself. “You did well. You’re very quick,” he said after. “You rely too much on brute force, though. You did most of the work for me by putting yourself off balance.”

She hummed to herself. “I usually don’t have this problem.” He appraised her again. She had been fast, and she was strong with a good reach. He asked who she normally sparred with, but other memories, long buried, told him the answer before she did. “Jesse.”

It made sense. They were nearly the same size, though Jesse was much broader than she was. Hanzo’s memories let him picture it: she would be faster than Jesse, certainly, fought much the same but with a speed and agility Jesse’s bigger body and straightforward style wouldn’t quite match. She was strong enough that his size wouldn’t be as big an advantage as Jesse would be used to. And there was the other thing: they were close. Hanzo had seen them, heads bowed together, laughing at private jokes, cracking other jokes aloud that sent them both into fits of laughter, whether or not others joined in. “He takes it easy on you.”

Fareeha nodded, smirked to herself. “I wouldn’t be surprised. He’s afraid of his hand.” This, too, made sense. Hanzo had watched many of them train together, but most were hesitant to take on Jesse, often left him to the punching bags instead. He had seen the mangled wreckage of one of these bags when a hit from Jesse’s left hand broke it open. It wasn’t a hit a person should — could — take. “I bet you could kick his ass though,” she said, the glint in her eye almost mischievous.

“Probably,” Hanzo said without thinking, and she laughed, a bright, clear sound that made Hanzo smile a little. He was uneasy with her, uncomfortable getting friendly with anyone, much less someone so close to Jesse. She was hard not to like though, reminded him a bit of Azami, direct and fearless, but only ever cocky in service to a joke. It was no surprise, with what little he knew, that she was the first to volunteer to fight him, afraid of neither his reputation as an assassin nor his fratricide, at least out here on the mat.

“Let me know if you do. He could use a good beating, and I want to be there when it happens.” She laughed again, clapped a hand on his shoulder briefly. She had a spring in her step as she walked away from him.

He cleared off the mat too, fetched his water and sent Hana and Lúcio out to practice. They had asked for this and followed his instruction well. Hana was trained in ways that were familiar to him, and it made instruction easy. Lúcio had moves that made less sense to him, but he took direction well and was delighted whenever Hanzo asked him to demonstrate something new. Such sessions were rapidly becoming Hanzo’s favorite part of the day, challenging and fruitful instead of routine for its own sake.

He had thought he should be kind to these people for Genji’s sake, but some of them, like Fareeha, like Hana and Lúcio, were likable in their own right. Hana in particular was not only likable, but she liked him too, to an almost overbearing degree. After the first time he gave her training advice, she followed him out of the room, pestered him with questions and compliments about his hair and piercings and tattoo, and when he finally gave her a patient smile, she latched onto his arm and gave him a toothy smile in return. He didn’t know at first why he suffered her attentions, until he watched her with Lúcio, watched her dance between flirtation and competition. He listened to her sharp tongue and silly remarks, and he watched the way she tried to distract others from her intelligence and the reality that she had seen too much too young. He thought of Genji at that age, and once the thought took hold, he could not dismiss it. She became something of a fixture: funny, frequently obnoxious, and impossible for him to push away.

There were others, of course, that were not so easy to like. The “old guard” in particular put him on edge. Jesse’s persistent presence made it impossible to forget the dossier, the pictures that should not have ever made it off base. None of those who had been around then seemed like the type to hurt the cause by endangering an agent, nor the type to hurt Jesse specifically. Dr. Ziegler was the wiliest of them, but she had been in the pictures, and she so plainly liked Jesse. More than that, her distaste for Hanzo was at least honest, hidden only behind politeness. The memory still followed him like a cloud in her presence, in the presence of any of those who were there before, however much he tried to banish it.


Dinners were often strange events, at least to Hanzo. There was a massive dining hall somewhere in the base, filled with long metal tables and benches, with a huge industrial kitchen attached. They didn’t use that one except for storage, occasionally swept up the dust in the mess hall only for its proximity to the food. Instead they used a space near their living quarters. It was much smaller, though still larger than what might be found in a typical home, and it too had a shared dining hall attached. Once long ago the whole wing had been used for ranking officers and visiting officials. Now it was their communal space, fit for the dozen or so that made up the new Overwatch.

Over the weeks, Hanzo learned it was common to find someone else already in the kitchen, or sitting at one of the tables with food. Sometimes they cooked for each other or did so in small groups. Hanzo learned that Jesse and Fareeha took turns cooking for each other. He learned Dr. Ziegler kept odd hours, but that Fareeha always ensured there was a third portion set aside for her. She only occasionally showed up in time to eat it. When she didn’t, Fareeha still packed it away, and it would be gone by morning.

He learned that Lena and Reinhardt would cook for anyone who asked, but that few would ever ask. Torbjörn never offered, only ever put together a meal for one. He learned that Lúcio and Dr. Zhou were creative and talented in the kitchen, though Lúcio’s taste for spice could be overwhelming.

Hana couldn’t cook at all, had never learned; even after leaving her mother’s home, she had either had a cook to do it or had eaten military rations. Hanzo understood somewhat. His own life had been filled with servants to cook for him, or later had required the kind of food scavenged, bought, or quickly prepared, something meant only to sustain. Four weeks in, when Hana suggested that they learn to cook “for real” together, Hanzo gave in, unable to dismiss her when she reminded him so much of Genji. She laughed when he tried to rummage through the library for one of the scattered old cookbooks, and she instead pulled out a tablet and waved it at him, called him a silly old man and a luddite.

Now she stood beside him in the kitchen, barking instructions while he sliced onions. “You’re doing it wrong, old man. Just watch the video!” Hanzo sighed as she pushed the tablet in front of him, gave a glance to the Korean chef dicing onions rapidly. Their hands held the blade differently than Hanzo, fingertips so close as they held the onion that it always looked as if they might be cut off. He could appreciate the skill, but he wondered if this was already more advanced than they were.

“They don’t start at the beginning. Find another. Or you can try, instead of criticizing.” He looked at her, and she giggled.

“Fine, fine.” She traded places with him, restarted the video, and took up another onion. She tried to follow along, then she realized she had none of the skill with the knife to do more than saw slowly through it. “This isn’t supposed to be hard,” she sighed.

Hanzo laughed. “We should practice our form, but they’re only onions. I’m sure it will taste the same regardless.” She sighed again. “Have patience, rabbit.”

She turned to say something, the look on her face suggesting she had a snappy retort, but she stopped, looked over his shoulder. Hanzo turned too, and there stood Jesse and Dr. Zhou.

“Pardon,” Jesse said as he moved past them to the sizable pantry. He gave Hanzo a funny look, like he wasn’t sure what to make of him. Hanzo couldn’t figure what could possibly be so strange about chopping onions that made Jesse look at him like that.

Dr. Zhou put on a kettle. “Would you like some tea?” Hanzo nodded and thanked her.

Make some for him too,” Hana said in Korean, with a quick look at Jesse. “He seems thirsty.

Hanzo felt his stomach clench. “Rude,” he said, pinched her lightly on the arm.

She giggled at him. “Ooh, the old man understood! I didn’t think you kept up with the youths.

Your slang is older than I am.

Jesse looked at them again, brow furrowed as he brought out a handful of potatoes, an onion balanced precariously on top. “Y’all talkin’ shit over there?” Hana giggled again, shameless. “Mei speaks Korean. She’ll tell me what’s up.” He stood expectantly, and Hanzo felt the heat in his cheeks creep in slowly.

“She said you might be thirsty, Jesse,” Dr. Zhou said sweetly. Jesse looked mildly suspicious, cheeks a little pink. “You do look a little dehydrated. You should drink some water.”

Hana cackled, and Dr. Zhou only looked at her; Hanzo was not sure she understood the joke until she winked. Jesse turned his back to them, but Hanzo and Hana watched him chop with interest. “He doesn’t do it like the chef either,” Hana said, and it was true. He cut the pieces unevenly, but his hands still moved quick and sure.

“I told you it didn’t matter,” Hanzo said. 

“I’d appreciate if y’all would quit talkin’ about me like I’m not here,” Jesse said, voice caught somewhere between amusement and exhaustion, and Hanzo flushed a little, realized again how rude they’d been, unintentionally for once.

Hana laughed and said, “We’re trying to learn how to cook.”

Jesse turned then, looked at him instead of her, the same look like he was studying Hanzo. “You spent all that time alone and never learned?” he asked, and Hanzo had to look away. Hana’s gaze flicked between them both with far too much interest.

“Ooh, we could teach you!” Dr. Zhou broke the awkward silence with a clap of her hands, excited as always to share some of her knowledge.

“We don’t want to impose, Hana. We can do this another time.” Hana looked at him, betrayed and more than a little suspicious.

”It’s not a burden,” Dr. Zhou insisted. 

“It will be very crowded,” he said.

”What? There’s tons of room,” Hana said, then turned on Jesse, eyes huge. “Please, Jesse?” 

Jesse was still looking at Hanzo, though, and his face went soft, even if his shoulders stayed tense. “Yeah, alright.” He gestured with his knife. “Y’all can start by learnin’ to peel potatoes.” Hana looked back at Hanzo, had her fist curled in his shirt and face stubborn. He wasn’t sure there was a way out that wouldn’t draw more attention, and he caved.

They learned quickly that neither Jesse’s nor Dr. Zhou’s — Mei’s — expertise went beyond home cooking, but it far surpassed their own, and Hana pestered them both with questions about every minor detail. Hanzo wasn’t surprised with Mei’s thorough teaching, but Jesse was similarly patient, if poorly equipped to explain more than the basics. Perhaps more impressively, Jesse managed to maneuver about the kitchen in ways that kept him distant from Hanzo, kept Hana or Mei or both between them when he had to get close.

Together they made a huge stew, big enough to feed anyone who wanted it. Hanzo and Hana learned to peel and chop and seed everything they needed, and if it was all a bit roughly done, Jesse said it didn’t matter, because a stew didn’t need to be pretty. The four of them ate together, Hana and Mei holding down much of the conversation. If Jesse occasionally watched him, and Hana occasionally watched them both, it was easy enough to ignore this time, enjoying the fruits of their labor. Nobody expected him to talk in groups by this point anyway.

When they were finished, Jesse smirked and hooked an arm around Mei, insisted that their “students” could clean up to pay for their lessons. Hana surprisingly didn’t put up a fight and dragged Hanzo back to the kitchen, where they washed everything up in a comfortable silence.

Or it was comfortable, until Hana gave him a sharp look and spoke again in Korean. “What is with you two?

Hanzo ignored her look, kept his eyes on his hands as he scrubbed the knives they’d used. “I don’t know what you mean.

Don’t lie to me, old man,” she warned, gesturing threateningly with the knife she’d been rinsing. “He looks at you like… like that all the time and you get so weird.

Have you run out of dramas to watch and begun writing your own?

Okayyy,” she said, not at all put off. “I think he likes you.” There was a teasing, sing-song lilt to her voice, but Hanzo didn’t laugh or rise to it like he normally would. “You should see his face when you’re not looking. I think he wants to be your boyfriend.

Hanzo tensed again, hand tight on the bowl he was washing. He made himself breathe, loosen his grip, and he forced himself to smile a little. “I have news for you, little rabbit. Men who look at you that way don’t always want to be your boyfriend.

Hana pulled a face. “Okay, one, I’m nineteen, not twelve. I knowwww. And two? Kind of gross to think about you that way, thanks for that.” Hanzo snorted, smirking to himself. She was blessedly silent for a few minutes. Then she asked, “So you don’t, you know, like him?

I don’t know him.

Chapter Text

Five weeks in, Hanzo began to feel frustrated again. He had passed the time the best he could, counted out the days with the tablet they let him have and the number of tea bags in his trashcan. He let Hana worm her way into his daily routines, though she quickly gave up on early morning meditation and kata; it didn't suit her late-night gaming schedule. He grew used to Jesse's presence, more or less, used to both his occasional friendliness and his darker moods, though his stares still set Hanzo on edge. But Jesse did not seek him out again, and it helped. He learned to enjoy the company of Lúcio and Mei, in particular, Lena and Fareeha somewhat more uneasily. He learned to tolerate the strange looks from the others, the patient probing from Winston about whether he had changed his mind.

He still had nightmares and the panics that came with them, but he could distract himself enough by day. Nobody asked questions when he had bags under his eyes; he'd seen enough now to know he was not the only one with sleepless nights. He had caught Jesse a few times, late at night with dark circles around his eyes, reeking of stale smoke and cheap whiskey. His stare then was darker, a hard edge to it that his easy manner usually kept at bay. Loathe as he was to be reminded, Hanzo knew what Jesse looked like when he brooded. He had caught Mei, too, gazing lifelessly into the depths of her teacup in the dark hours of the morning. He had seen Hana wander the halls, too restless for even video games to cure. He had overheard, once and entirely by accident, a hushed midnight argument between Fareeha and Dr. Ziegler, Fareeha insistent that the doctor get better rest. It was a strange sort of comfort to know he was not alone, and it reminded him that whoever else these people were, they had fought their own difficult battles. 

Dinner tonight was no more sparsely populated than usual, although he knew from what little information he could pry from Jesse that several of the agents were out on some mission. The smell in the dining hall was nothing like he’d expected. The aroma was achingly familiar, like home. His feet carried him to the kitchen seemingly of their own accord. Mei stood in front of the stove, directing Jesse, head and shoulders taller than her, to fetch her things from the cabinets and pantry. They worked together, backs to Hanzo, elbowing each other good naturedly. Jesse made her giggle, and she turned her head away from something steaming, caught Hanzo watching. Her eyes went wide before she smiled.

“I didn’t mean to interrupt,” he said. Jesse turned too. He wore an apron, slightly too small, that said “Kiss the Cook”. Hanzo concentrated on a spray of flour in his beard.

“Oh! You aren’t supposed to be here!” She giggled, made a shooing motion with her hand. “Get out before you spoil the surprise!” Hanzo stood for a moment, flustered. Jesse only shrugged, as if he had no control over the situation. “Go on, Hanzo. Go sit!” She giggled again, doing her best to block his view of the stove.

Hanzo, mystified, left them to it. He found Hana playing a handheld game at one of the tables, and he sat with her. Lúcio was with her, headphones on while he scrolled through something on a tablet. Hana looked up. “Talking to your boyfriend?” she teased in Korean.

Not talking to yours?” he teased back, nodding at Lúcio, and her face turned redder than he had yet seen.

He isn’t— ugh, you’re such a sassy old man.” She flipped her gaming device closed, then looked hard at Hanzo, finger pointed at his face. “You changed the subject!” Hanzo hummed and said nothing, knowing it could only devolve further, and Hana grinned to herself as if she’d won something. He started to open his mouth to tease her again, but the sound died in his throat.

In the doorway to the dining hall, there stood Genji, or the omnic that called itself Genji. There was no way to read the expression behind its — his — faceplate, but he was facing Hanzo, completely still. Hanzo scrambled to his feet, but once there, he didn’t know whether to move or stay. He could feel Hana's eyes on him, distantly, as if she was miles away. He saw only Genji, a fixed point in the center of his vision, however blurred it became at the edges. He thought about his breathing. In through his nose, out through his mouth. Maybe-Genji moved slowly toward him, stopped just across the table, out of arm’s reach. “You came,” he said in Japanese, in that strange voice.

Hanzo shifted his weight, unsure of what to say. Part of him was angry that this was happening here, in front of an audience. Part of him wanted to run. “I came to see my brother,” he said finally.

Maybe-Genji nodded, then he circled the table, moved toward him in quiet, careful movements, as if Hanzo were an animal he didn't wish to frighten. Closer now, he lifted his hands slowly, pulled, and the faceplate came off with a hiss of air. Eyes like Hanzo’s stared out from a face lined with scars. Hanzo wanted to look away. He wanted to leave Gibraltar entirely, find somewhere new and far away from here. But he locked eyes with Genji and stayed that way. He owed him that much, and more. He focused on his breathing, and without thinking he reached out, hand halfway to Genji’s face before he stopped himself. He wasn’t sure he had that permission, wasn’t sure he wanted to feel the scarring under his hand.

You’ve seen me,” Genji said, and Hanzo was both relieved and horrified to learn that his voice without the faceplate sounded exactly like Genji.

Can we sit? Together?” Hanzo asked, and Genji nodded slowly. Hanzo moved stiffly to another table, Genji behind him until he sat, and Hanzo had to look again at his face.

He didn’t know what he’d expected, but Genji looked at him with an expression Hanzo thought might match his own. A little disbelieving, eyes tracking over all the little details. “I like the hair,” Genji finally said.

Hanzo flinched back from the compliment, not sure that small talk was what either of them really wanted. But it was a start. “Thank you,” he said finally, then swallowed. “It, ah, seemed like something you’d appreciate.

Genji tilted his head then, and Hanzo wondered if he usually expressed himself so, with his face covered. “You didn’t do it for you?

Hanzo looked away then, down at his hands. “I did. Someone recently reminded me I hadn’t taken much time to myself over the years. But I felt… inspired by some of your more creative choices from our youth.

He looked back up to find Genji wearing a tiny smile. “Should’ve gone green then,” he said, and the joke felt like he was testing something.

Hanzo smiled back, wary, and Genji continued to return it. It felt fragile, and they would have to discuss the harder things, but for now Hanzo could let himself enjoy this. With his face in full view, with everything else Hanzo knew, he couldn’t deny it was his brother. Part of him wanted to, but it was impossible when he was right here. Hanzo soaked it in until it grew too overwhelming. He finally had to look away, focus on his breathing, on the smooth top of the table under his hands. He knew Genji was watching him, and it made his vision start to blur around the edges. He breathed, and he kept breathing, until he felt it settle down again.

The whole scene was interrupted by a clatter as someone slid a bowl in front of Hanzo. He looked up to find Jesse, setting out bowls of udon with thin slices of beef, and a platter of gyoza. The surprise was for Genji. Hanzo felt oddly touched that they’d greeted Genji with some of his favorite foods, and angry as well. Jesse had warned him he would have to be supervised, but someone could have told him this was coming.

“Jesse!” Genji shouted, animated in a way he hadn’t been for Hanzo. He sprang to his feet and pulled Jesse in for a hug. “You made all this?”

“Mei did most of the work,” Jesse shrugged, and Hanzo glared at him from behind Genji. He wasn’t entirely sure why. He was angry that Jesse’d leave Genji’s return a surprise, yes, but something else, something more confusing, burned inside him. Jesse didn’t seem to notice, kept talking to Genji. “How was Nepal?”

“Good, good! It is beautiful there. You should come next time.” Genji settled back into his seat, looked at Hanzo. “I went to recruit my old master and some of his friends. They wouldn’t leave, but my master returned with me.”

“Master?” Hanzo asked.

“I studied with the Shambali after...” Genji paused, looked at Hanzo and back down at his food. “After.”

Hanzo felt the word burn him, and Jesse wisely made himself scarce. He switched back to Japanese, to the partial privacy it afforded. “Where is this master? If he… helped you, I would like to meet him.

Genji looked at him then. “Would you?

Hanzo flushed, furrowed his brow and looked into his bowl. “I. Yes. Of course.

Genji took a dumpling, hummed to himself around the mouthful. “Later,” he said, still chewing, and it was another little habit that reminded Hanzo this was indeed his brother. “He’s hibernating now.” Hanzo squinted in confusion. “Sorry, old joke. He’s resting. You’ll meet him when we debrief in the morning.

They ate in silence, Hanzo stealing glances at him. He wondered at the looks on Genji’s face; surely this was more difficult for Genji, but Hanzo could feel his skin crawling with the discomfort. He still wanted to run. Hanzo watched him eat, marveled that he could eat at all. He seemed to enjoy it. From what little Hanzo understood, much of Genji’s body had been... replaced. He knew their healing and his own morbid curiosity would demand that he discover how much, but for now he avoided the question, focusing only on the fact that Genji could eat, could taste enough to enjoy himself.

Genji slowed down his eating, looked at Hanzo as if he expected something. But Hanzo couldn’t figure out what. Finally, Genji said again, “You came here. To see me. Now what?

I don’t know,” Hanzo answered. The truth was the only thing he knew for sure that Genji wanted from him. “I thought I would know when I saw you.

Genji nodded slowly, seemed to think hard about what to say next. “It’s the same for me,” he admitted. In some ways it was a relief. Genji was as lost as Hanzo. It put them on something closer to equal footing, or at least gave them a place to start.

Hanzo shifted, lowered his voice. “I don’t understand why you. Why you want this.

Genji stared at him, and he looked strangely frustrated. “Okay. We can start there.” He seemed to gather himself. “I know what you did, after.” There it was again, just ‘after’, as if Genji's life had been measured just like Hanzo's: before the fight, after the fight. “Everyone who ever wore a dragon, every elder. You…” Genji swallowed. “I thought you’d gone insane. I wanted to kill you myself. I was not… well. For a long time. I used to want vengeance. And then I wanted to put you out of your misery. But you went back to the shrine, and I figured it out. You weren’t mad. You wanted redemption.

Hanzo flinched, looked away from him then. But he couldn’t be a coward with Genji any longer, owed him better than that, and he made himself meet his eye again. “Don’t rule out madness yet,” he said wryly.

Genji almost smiled. “I meant what I said before, brother. I have worked to forgive you. I want you to earn it. And I want you to forgive yourself.” He breathed out hard then, and there was a little hiss as his body vented the air. It filled Hanzo with shame, but he nodded anyway.

I will try,” Hanzo said. “I am trying. I don’t know where to begin.

Sign the damn paperwork,” Genji said. “Commit.

Hanzo nodded. The rest of their conversation went quickly. It wasn’t easy, but they set some ground rules: there would be no lies, no obfuscations, but they would both admit and respect when they were overwhelmed and needed space. It was enough, for now. Enough that before he retired to his room that night, Hanzo went down to Winston’s office and slid the signed papers under the door.

He met Zenyatta the next day, long before the briefing. It seemed Genji and his master also liked to meditate at sunrise. Genji found Hanzo at his usual spot, then beckoned him to another nearby. He meditated with them in the mornings, except when he or Genji needed the space. He talked with Genji in small, controlled bursts. Through this, he learned that Genji had lived because of Azami, who had remembered Overwatch’s interests in the Shimada clan years before and tracked down the agents still watching them. Genji said the last he’d checked in on her, she worked in private — but legitimate — security in Hong Kong, and she lived together with a woman and their daughter. Hanzo liked to imagine that Azami dyed her daughter’s hair unnatural colors and taught her to fight.

Dr. Ziegler had put Genji’s body back together, a complicated, experimental — and controversial — blend of skin and tissue grafts with cybernetic technologies. When pressed, Genji couldn’t describe every procedure. But he could explain himself well enough. He needed the cybernetics to breathe, but he could still taste. He couldn’t get drunk, but he was sure coffee still woke him up. Hanzo cautiously suggested it was a placebo effect, and Genji shrugged. Cheekily at first, Genji explained he could still have sex with all his original parts; later, more soberly, he admitted he hadn’t felt any reason to for a long time.

”So much for the Shimada legacy,” Hanzo dared, and it broke the tension, made Genji laugh, louder and longer than he should have.

”The dragons were here before us. They will find their own way,” he said, once he’d found his voice again.

They had enhanced his speed and agility too, but he insisted the response time to use them were still all him. He also insisted he could have all the sugar he wanted, since his kidneys were now “tiny computers”, so Hanzo remained skeptical of some of his claims. They had promised not to lie to each other, but that didn’t mean Genji fully understood the complex tangle of medical technology that made his body function. He offered to let Hanzo read Dr. Ziegler’s reports, and perhaps he would one day, but for now Hanzo preferred to hear it this way. Despite his skepticism, he was more concerned with how Genji experienced his body than how anyone else could explain it.

Once, Genji offered to remove his whole suit for Hanzo, to let him see. They were both too uncomfortable to go through with it, but Hanzo did learn what it had taken Genji to reach even this level of acceptance of his body. For that, they could thank Zenyatta, who floated serenely through the base and slept — powered down — in Genji’s room. Hanzo didn’t ask about that part, and Genji didn’t offer to explain. Hanzo did his best not to hold it against Zenyatta or anyone else in Overwatch; it was none of their faults that Genji had made friends to fill the gulf left by Hanzo's violence and a decade apart. He should be grateful to them, if anything. But they also still sent him out on missions: his brother was alive, miraculously, and they risked that life over and over.

Between their talks and the other routines of Hanzo’s day, there were his own small missions. Most were for gathering intelligence or supplies, the kind where the travel took longer than the mission itself. He worked with Jesse twice, and both went smoothly, which he thought should have surprised him but somehow didn’t. He remembered the apartment in Tokyo, how he had spoken no more than five words while they worked, and it went off without a hitch. It was the same here, and the dragons mostly kept to themselves. The missions were surprisingly without incident; not easy, exactly, but nothing that should have required an elite team. If they’d had the resources, these would have been the work for average soldiers. Hanzo gave Winston a chip card linked to his heftiest bank account, the one where he stored the biggest portion of the bounties he’d taken on. The food and weapons got better, and they began to replace parts of the gym and training facilities with new equipment. He could shower seemingly endlessly with scalding water. Dr. Ziegler’s supplies were well stocked. Athena helped Winston refurbish some old drones, and the agents no longer had to do all the cleaning themselves. But new personnel didn’t arrive.

Hanzo continued to train others, even did more sparring himself. One at a time, he slowly took down each and every agent, showed the others how it was done, how to calculate speed and body weights and guess at the next move. It went several degrees beyond his earlier instruction, became more personal and tailored to each of their strengths and weaknesses. He did this with all but Genji; by unspoken agreement, they did not fight each other, although they did sometimes discuss, in stilted, careful bursts, how the other might improve their form. Today, finally, he was to fight Jesse. Jesse had scrapped some with Fareeha, but as Hanzo had guessed, he clearly pulled his punches with her. Hanzo couldn't decide if it was an insult to her abilities or something else, warmer and deeper. Hanzo had only ever watched Jesse truly spar with Reinhardt. The others were, likely quite rightly, still wary of the metal hand, but Reinhardt had a massive body and seemed to think pain would make a good story later. Hanzo had neither of those things on his side. Jesse seemed nervous about it.

Hanzo was less worried about the hand and more worried about Jesse’s reach. He wasn’t huge like Reinhardt, but he was still bigger than Hanzo, and a lot scrappier than the rest. Hanzo had seen how easily Fareeha had seemed to dance around him until Jesse grappled her to the floor; even playful, it was obviously a well-practiced move, and Hanzo could picture the moves that came after, the ones he’d never use on Fareeha but undoubtedly knew. Jesse was a man who’d had to learn to survive by himself, like Genji, like Hanzo. He wasn’t a soldier after all, no matter who had trained him. 

Hanzo pulled off his shirt to Hana’s wolf whistle; he’d already watched Jesse twist Reinhardt up in his own clothes, use them for leverage. Besides, it made Jesse more nervous. Hanzo wasn’t sure if it was intimidation or attraction — or both, Jesse had always seemed to like both, and his stares had not yet gone away — but he would capitalize on it either way. He pulled his hair back again, kept his muscles taut with every move, and smirked at the way Jesse watched him.

The fight began with them circling each other. Hanzo eyed Jesse’s arms, knew he’d have to move in and out of his guard quickly if he wanted to win. If the fight went to the mat, Jesse would have the advantage. Hanzo was confident, but he would avoid it if he could. When Hanzo realized Jesse wouldn’t make the first move, he stepped into his guard, tested him by shooting out a hand that Jesse blocked easily, and he stepped back. He did it again, and again, light little strikes that seemed to get on Jesse’s nerves more than anything else. Good. Jesse finally swung, and Hanzo stepped inside the arc of it, slapped him on the stomach. He moved back. “Far too slow. You insult me.” Jesse glared at him, struck out again, quicker and with more force. Hanzo sidestepped it, corrected Jesse’s balance for him. It made Jesse twitch, was calculated to be embarrassing. “You pulled your punch again,” Hanzo tsked. “I’m getting offended.”

“Fine,” Jesse said. “I getcha.” He didn’t move though, let Hanzo take his measure. Hanzo moved in to hit him again, and Jesse punched him hard, right in the gut. He heard Hana gasp; nobody else had yet landed a hit that Hanzo didn’t allow. At least it wasn’t the metal hand. That one swung too and Hanzo smoothly avoided it, moved fluidly to strike back. They went back and forth like this, now that Hanzo was satisfied Jesse was at least trying in earnest. Hanzo also had to try, surprisingly enough. Jesse hit hard and fast, even if he still likely pulled his punches with the metal arm. His hits were direct and to the point, like a boxer’s, but he didn’t telegraph, didn’t make himself predictable, and every once in a while he pulled out a move that was all wrong for his style, but plainly well-practiced and strangely familiar. It was like Genji’s, he realized. Jesse sparred with Genji and had probably done so for years, and neither of them had said a word about it.

A curious little grin curled Jesse’s top lip, made him look feral. Hanzo remembered a time long ago, when he’d caught Jesse boxing, saw the same grin and predator look in his eye, and a mile of gleaming, tan skin. Here and now, Jesse saw his distraction and took quick advantage, dragged him in and down to the mat. Hanzo snarled, angry with himself and with Jesse, with Genji too somehow, and he grappled back, caught Jesse in a purposefully painful hold. He seemed to have expected it though, wriggled himself free before Hanzo could set the hold, got Hanzo pinned facedown under him.

It was a sloppy pin, one Hanzo could have easily broken, but Jesse’s body pressed hard against his drained the power from his limbs. He could feel Jesse’s chest moving against him in hard pants, raspy breath fanning hot over his cheek. Jesse was winded. It would be easy to throw him off and regain control, but Hanzo’s chest felt heavy and his limbs refused to work. The dragons squirmed with some perverse delight, and Hanzo’s skin felt too tight, his vision starting to go black around the edges. He tore a shaking hand free from Jesse’s grip, but it felt like the world was closing in. Jesse’s grasp loosened, as if he realized, and Hanzo snarled, forced his body to move. He tore himself free, rolled and got Jesse under him instead, got his arm up behind his back, pulled hard to ensure it hurt. 

“Christ,” Jesse gasped, and he jerked under Hanzo, unable to move further. “Enough.” Hanzo didn’t budge, barely heard him until Jesse said it again. He let go then, scrambled to his feet. He didn’t help Jesse up, didn’t look at the others. Usually, they would clap politely, but the stunned silence rang in his ears this time. Whatever else had happened, they had all seen him go limp, had witnessed his weakness. He left without a word, and only Genji watched him go.

Hanzo returned to his room to shower, let the hot water soothe his aching body, turn his skin red. Now that the panic and the adrenaline had worn off, his body tried to respond to the memory in another way, erection persistent and dragons purring under his skin. He snarled again to himself and thought instead of Talon's dossier on Jesse, relived all the anger and shame of his manipulation until it was impossible to stay aroused.

When he left the washroom, he could hear someone pounding at his door. He thought about Genji watching him, and he wondered, but he didn’t wish to open it. He stared at the floor, breathed in and out. The knocking paused, then started again. Hanzo’s legs felt steady enough that he stalked to the door, flung it open to give Genji a vicious lecture, and instead saw Jesse. Jesse stood with his palms up like he wanted Hanzo to see he was unarmed, but Hanzo didn’t miss the way Jesse’s eyes flicked over him, took him in as he stood in only his towel. It made Hanzo angrier, made his skin feel too tight.

“Go away,” Hanzo snapped, but Jesse caught the door as Hanzo tried to shut it.

“Sure? I can do that in a sec, but I needed to check on you.”

“I do not need you to check in,” he said, still trying to force the door closed. Jesse still applied counter pressure, and he wondered if they were going to break it. “I need you to leave me alone.”

“And I will here in a minute, but I just wanna know you’re alright.” Hanzo paused his efforts at trying to close the door, and Jesse seemed to take it as a victory, pushed the thing all the way open and blocked the doorway with his body. “You almost lost that fight. You froze, and I don’t think you were even tryin’ to hurt me, ’cause you sure as hell weren’t in control. Somethin’ happened.” When Hanzo didn’t answer, Jesse prompted him again. “Been around soldiers and killers my whole life. Whatever it was, I prob’ly seen it before.” Hanzo glared at Jesse, wordlessly, until Jesse finally snapped a little, said, “Listen, Hanzo, if you’re gonna have a panic attack durin’ a mission, that’s somethin’ your teammates need to know. Could get yourself or one of us killed if we dunno how to deal with it. It could get Genji killed.”

There, it seemed, Jesse had found a strategy that worked. Most of the fight went out of Hanzo. “It won’t happen on a mission,” he said after a moment, looking away.

Jesse snorted. “How d’you know?”

“Because I've been in this business my entire life, and it never has before.” He fixated on Jesse’s dusty boots in his doorway, angry that he was dragging dirt into Hanzo’s room.

“That ain’t real reassurin’. Plenty has changed for you recently. Tell me how you know it ain’t gonna happen if an enemy pins you down,” Jesse said, tone serious, commanding. At Hanzo’s continued silence, Jesse grunted. “I ain’t goin’ away until you tell me, so you can either own up or get comfy in here.”

“It won’t be a problem,” Hanzo repeated, looking back up at him. He schooled his face into something just as commanding as Jesse's voice. But Jesse still looked skeptical, said nothing and wouldn’t move from Hanzo’s doorway, and the silence stretched out until Hanzo finally said, “It wasn’t getting pinned. That’s not the issue. Missions will be fine.”

Jesse didn’t seem satisfied. “Then what is the issue?” 

Hanzo pinched the bridge of his nose, squeezed his eyes shut. Then he opened them, steady on Jesse’s face, and said, “Fine. You are the issue.”

“Oh,” Jesse said. His eyes were big, soft, like he wasn’t sure whether to be hurt or hopeful. He had seen the look before; it made Jesse look young, almost like he used to, and anger flared inside again. “Mind, uh, lettin’ me know in what way I’m a problem for you?”

“Go away,” Hanzo said again.

“At least put me outta my misery,” Jesse said, quiet and unhappy, and Hanzo thought again about all his looks, and he felt something inside him snap.

“Fine,” Hanzo growled. “You still want to talk about your mission. I can see it every time you look at me. I don't want to hear it. You want me to know you used to love me? That makes what you did worse. I could at least respect a spy who did his job well. If it was real, though, it’s just another thing you hid from me, and you weren’t above using it as leverage to finish your mission. You thought it was real and you still betrayed me. That’s worse. You’re a liar and manipulator, and you even lie to yourself. You romanticize the past and you romanticize me. You don't know me. Anything you have ever known about me, you got through spying. And you only want to talk about any of it so you can offload your guilt. Even now you’re selfish. You claim to be concerned and then turn it into an opportunity to bring all of this to my door. What do you want, Jesse? Want to fuck your ex? You want some proof you’re forgiven? Or have you convinced yourself you’re in love again, because you can’t stop living in the past? I don’t want any of it. I want you to go away.”

Jesse looked dazed by it, looked like Hanzo had just punched him in the gut. He could feel the heat in his face, heart thudding in his chest, and Jesse just stared. Hanzo felt feverish, distantly aware that he had spoken more, revealed more, than he had to Jesse in the entire two months he had been there. Finally, Jesse cleared his throat, but his voice still sounded hoarse. “Yeah, that’ll do.” He backed away, and Hanzo shut the door. He heard a thump just outside, then everything went mercifully silent.

Chapter Text

Hanzo dreamed again of dragons. It wasn’t a nightmare, not exactly, but a memory, and it brought with it all the fear and awe of its origin. He was a child, though he hadn’t felt it at the time, and he lay delirious with fever, saw the world in colors and shapes that should not exist. Outside his window there was a thunderstorm, maybe something more than that; everything smelled like lightning, and he heard the winds in his ears.

His heart and left arm were on fire, an agony that crackled through his whole body, left him shaking. There was no pain like it, and he remembered even through the fever his father telling him that if he could survive this pain, he could survive all others. His father was there now, coalesced from the writhing shapes into a face all wrong above him. The colors and shadows were unnatural, cast his father as another nightmare.

He thought he cried out, but his father only watched, and someone else’s voice pushed through, matched the rhythm of the wind and rain and the pulse of his body in a song, perhaps, but one he couldn’t understand. The agony only grew and his muscles spasmed and shook, too weak to be still. The searing heat of it tore through him, and he could feel it in his head, claws of pain digging in behind his eyes, until finally, shockingly and all at once, it ceased.

He floated then with no sense of up or down, no surface under his back or feet. Without the pain, he could feel something else thrumming through him: the rhythm of the storm, wild and overwhelming, wind whipping his pulse to a frenzy. In its own way, it was worse than the pain, to be caught directionless with nature’s fury trapped inside him. The dragons came then, their cool blue glow a strangely soothing counterpoint to their monstrous appearance. Later, in the waking world, he would remember the blue as the color of his mother’s kimono in an old photograph. There, with the dragons, he could think only of how huge they were, and he knew there should be only one.

He had only ever been prepared for either one dragon or for none at all. But they came, both at once, and they stared at him with dark, unknowable eyes. The world slowly filled in, and he was standing by the sea, watching the water roll out and out and out, a tsunami building behind the dragons. He couldn’t know even now if they would choose him, had never been told what to do when they arrived. They only watched, gave him no clues, but the wildness inside him pushed him forward, out onto the wet sands, toward the massive wall of water. He couldn’t know if it would come down, if the dragons would protect him, but he felt only the impulse to run toward it, to keep running, until it crashed.

He jerked awake with a gasp, breath heaving into his lungs. He looked around him, alone in his room at the watchpoint, and he touched his face, grasped at the feel of stiff sheets, anything to remind him he was returned to his own body. He hadn’t dreamed those memories in years, in well over a decade, and they brought with them a fierce trembling in his body, some physical memory of the agony and fever. He had learned, after he awoke with the tattoo, that his heart had stopped, long enough that his family had been preparing to declare him dead, a failure. Instead he’d returned with two dragons, and they’d praised it as a sign the clan would reach greater heights. They had also burdened him with double the expectations, contradicted their demands by treating him as breakable, a ceremonial weapon both deadly and in need of constant minding. Of manipulation, his mind helpfully supplied. 

Genji’s had not seemed so bad, in comparison, but he had been older, too, sixteen to Hanzo’s fourteen. The difference seemed incremental in hindsight, but at the time it had mattered to him a great deal, had spoken to both his sense of innate superiority and his resentment that Genji was spared his own burdens. Yet Hanzo had still remembered the fever and the pain, had watched his brother thrash and moan and stare with wild, unseeing eyes about the room, and he’d clutched Genji’s hand in a white knuckled grip. He’d wondered even then how much of the experience took place only in the mind; there had been no thunderstorm when his own fever cleared, and Genji's room had held only the incense and chanting and the soft sound of his whimpers. Genji’s heart hadn’t stopped, though, and Hanzo had thought at the time that it meant Genji’s dragon was weaker than his two. Now he wondered if it meant Genji’s heart had always been stronger than his.

He couldn’t stay in bed, but he knew drink would not calm him now. So he walked, let his body and the remnants of his fever-dream instinct take him outside. It was raining, and he stood at the cliffside in it, watched the passing storm and the crash of the waves. Far out over the ocean, lightning struck down, and he wondered if this was what had brought the dream.

He wasn’t surprised when Genji joined him, though for once he left the faceplate on, a guard against the rain. They sat together on the cliffside and watched the storm move farther away, carried out over the water. The rain grew gentler, and Genji looked at him. “Did you dream about it too?”

“Yes,” Hanzo said, didn’t have to ask for clarification. He wondered if one of them had caused it in the other, wondered if the dragons shared some unspoken connection. But neither explained the root cause. “Did something happen to dredge up old memories?”

Genji hummed. “Not that I’m aware. You?”

“Perhaps,” Hanzo said with a shrug. His brief spat with Jesse hadn’t seemed like it could do this, but he reasoned it was possible it had dug up older grudges. That anger always clawed deeper, back to his family in the end. Genji seemed to be waiting for him to say more, but Hanzo didn’t know how to tell him. They didn’t talk about Jesse, left it a strange gap in their conversations unless Genji was talking about Blackwatch, that space in between where Jesse’d had no presence in Hanzo’s life.

Genji hummed again, and with the dying rain Hanzo could hear the vent of air that came with it. Hanzo didn’t flinch at the sound, but only through force of will. “Perhaps,” Genji repeated, and Hanzo thought he might be annoyed. It was more difficult with the faceplate. Genji seemed to sense it, and he checked the rain again, reduced now to a delicate mist. He took off the mask, and he looked directly at Hanzo. “I watched something happen to you today. Or yesterday. Do you have any idea what time it is?”

Despite himself, Hanzo laughed a little. “No.”

Genji laughed, too, and he patted at his chest until a little panel opened up. Hanzo watched with that morbid curiosity as Genji reached inside. “Here,” he said, and he plucked out two cigarillos and a lighter, all perfectly dry, kept safe from the rain inside something like a breast pocket. “Don’t tell Jesse I stole from him.” Genji grinned and handed one to Hanzo, who took it a little uneasily.

He hadn’t known about the pocket. “Is that what that’s for?”

“No,” Genji said with a shrug, and he lit the end of his cigarillo, then held out the flame to Hanzo, who ducked his head down to light his own.

“Dr. Ziegler will kill me for letting you smoke,” he said.

Genji shrugged again. “Angela may have built them, but they’re my lungs.” He looked thoughtful. “We probably shouldn’t tell her though. Just in case.”

Hanzo smiled a little. They hadn’t shared secrets in a long time, and he felt protective of this one, however small it was, because it was the first new one. “Your secrets are safe,” he promised, and it probably sounded too serious for the occasion.

“So are yours,” Genji said, also too seriously. It made Hanzo look away. “What happened?”

Hanzo thought about it, felt the curl of anger again, but it was more distant now, something he could hold out and examine. “I was surprised.” Genji didn’t ask, just watched him, waited. “I hadn’t considered that... that Jesse would know things you taught him.”

Genji shifted beside him, settled his weight. “You are surprised I trained with another agent?”

Hanzo grunted, still searching for the words. “Not when I think about it now. But I hadn’t. Thought about it. I wasn’t prepared for the fight to feel familiar. It brought up other old memories.”

Genji snorted. “And here I felt weird because I thought you, ah, enjoyed it.”

Hanzo felt himself flush a little, chose his words carefully. “I don’t think that would have had the same effect.” He thought about the dragons, about the shower after, and in his mind he modified it. That alone wouldn’t have done it, wouldn’t have made him freeze like he had.

“Gross,” Genji said, seemed to read between the lines.

Hanzo snorted. “You are an adult. I’m sure you can handle the barest suggestion.”

“Not when it’s about my brother and my—” Genji looked at Hanzo strangely and seemed to change his mind about something. “My friend.” Hanzo felt the bitterness rise inside him. “Wow, you really don’t like him,” Genji said with a laugh.

“You’re surprised?” Hanzo asked.

“Yes and no,” Genji said.

It frustrated him, made him snap a little. “What does that mean?”

“It means I’d hoped you would get along, and I think you still could. It also means I know you are stubborn and have reason to be angry with him.” Genji shrugged like it was an easy thing to say, like Hanzo should have known it already.

Genji had left him some space, though, validated him where he’d expected only a lecture about forgiveness. It helped, somewhat, took the bite back out of Hanzo’s voice. “You think I could ‘get along’ with someone who betrayed us? I don’t even like that you do.”

“So I’ve noticed,” Genji said, and he seemed to think it was funny. “Are you jealous?” Hanzo glared, and Genji laughed at him. “Do you think I would—”

No,” Hanzo snapped. “I am not jealous.” He watched the smoke curl away from them, and he remembered his promise not to lie. He shut his eyes, squeezed the bridge of his nose. “I am not jealous of you,” he modified, and Genji made a quiet noise beside him. “You’ve made friends who do things for you that I can’t, and I should be grateful, but I can only think about how and why you ever met them.” He risked opening his eyes, found Genji watching him with a soft, open look on his face. “I can’t cook for you or spar with you. I don’t know how to watch you go off on a mission or repair you if you’re injured. I don’t know your stories or your secrets any more. And he has had ten years to learn, because I saved him and not my own brother, because I let myself be manipulated by him and the family both.”

“Breathe, aniki,” Genji said softly, and only then did Hanzo become aware of the shallow rush of his breath, the way his pulse had spiked.

Hanzo felt lightheaded, and more than that he felt selfish. Genji should not be the one to console him. “I’m sorry,” he said. “You should not have to bear my burdens.”

Genji hummed to himself, then stubbed out the cigarillo. “No, they’re yours. But I do want to hear them, if they’re part of you.”

Hanzo huffed. “Do you?”

“It’s entirely selfish,” Genji said, cracked a sly smile. “I like watching my older brother suffer.” Hanzo snorted, felt some of the tension drain from his shoulders. Genji’s face grew serious again. “I like knowing.”

Hanzo nodded at that, thought he might understand. Perhaps it made him a person to Genji, not only his failed murderer. Perhaps Genji, like Hanzo, wanted only to know everything he could, wanted to fill in the gulf between them with all of the things they had missed. “You’ll tell me if it’s too much?”

“Obviously,” Genji said with a laugh. “I’m not here to suffer for you.” It should have stung, but instead it made him relax further. “Speaking of my suffering,” he said, still laughing, “I need you to actually talk to Jesse.”

Hanzo started. “I assure you we have talked enough.”

Genji held up a hand, and Hanzo bristled but kept himself in check. “I have no desire to be in the middle. I don’t even need you to like him, as long as you can work together without disrupting my peace. But you can’t, and I am tired.”

Hanzo huffed. “I am fully capable of being professional.”

Genji had the nerve to roll his eyes at him. “You’re fully capable of being a dick,” he said, more than a little amused. “You’ll both be better off if you let him tell you what happened.”

“I already know what happened.”

“No, you don’t.” Genji said it with such certainty that Hanzo felt himself twitch. “I told him to tell you so you could both put it to rest, but you have been stubborn. Both of you.”

“I thought you didn’t want to be in the middle.”

“And I don’t. But seriously? Do you know how exhausting it is to be in the same room as both of you? And don’t get me started on how pissy he’s been lately.”

Hanzo looked at him. “Pissy?”

Genji snorted. “What? Did you think he was coming to me weeping? You have been rude to him since you got here, I’ve heard. He thinks you’re an asshole, and he’s been nice because I told him doing anything else would only make it worse.”

“That is far from the impression he gave me,” Hanzo said, trying to fit together Genji’s perspective with his own. It stung a little, knowing that Jesse had done what Genji wanted better than Hanzo had.

“Gross,” Genji said again, and it almost made Hanzo laugh. “I don’t think I want to know what that means.” Genji pulled an exaggerated face, and Hanzo did laugh then. “I’m serious, though. There’s more to it than you know, and it would be good for you to hear it from him, not me. I don’t need you to...” He waved his hand in the air, seemed to lose the words. “I just want to be able to be in the same room and not want to strangle myself.”

Hanzo huffed again, still wasn’t sure he wanted to bother. But Genji was asking it of him, and it made him think about it from his end, how tiresome it must really be, to watch his brother and good friend circle each other like animals, never knowing if either of them might attack. He sighed. “I will try.” It seemed selfish to deny him any sort of peace.

“Good,” Genji said. “You’re allowed to be angry, you know. Just... listen, and try not to be a dick about it.”

He went back to his room. His clothes clung unpleasantly, damp against clammy skin, but he felt more settled than he had in some time. He wondered if the dream had been meant to bring them together, if the storm had.

He paused at the door. Taped to his keypad was a little envelope, and he was sure it hadn’t been there when he left. He looked around the empty hallway, but whoever had left it was long gone now. It brought up an old paranoia, a spike of anxiety that he pushed down. He reminded himself that there were many more reasons for leaving notes, or gifts, or whatever it was, than only those that were threatening.

He snatched it off the keypad and let himself in. He pulled it open and shook a little flash drive into his palm. There was a note, too. 

Drive has every file from Hanamura. Athena gave you clearance. 

It doesn’t have to change anything, but now at least you’ll have it. We don’t have to talk about it. I’m not much in the mood to talk to you anyway. 

I picked a bad time before. I'm sorry for that. But you were a real dick about it and you know it.

About the rest of it: I'm not in love with you. You aren't the same person, and neither am I. Get over yourself. You hid shit, too, and I'll be damned if I'm gonna sit through another lecture about betrayal after what you did to Genji.

I'm not your punching bag, either. All I want is for you to a) stop looking for my knife in your back and b) quit being a dick.


He read it again and almost laughed at it, strangely relieved by how rude some of it was. And, it seemed, Jesse had beaten him to the punch again. He thought about Genji’s insistence that Jesse didn’t actually like him very much, but it got tangled up with Jesse’s eyes on him in the kitchen, with the sad, hopeful way he’d told Hanzo to put him out of his misery. He stared at the flash drive, uncertain he really wanted to bother right then, and he dropped it and the note on his desk.

He towelled off and changed into dry clothes, and he eyed the drive again. He texted Genji.

>Are you still up?


He thought about it, thumb hovering over the letters on his comm. Was this something Genji had seen before? Would he even want to see? He called him instead.

“What now?” Genji answered with. Hanzo told him about the drive while he put on the electric kettle and set to preparing some tea. Whatever he decided, he knew he wouldn’t sleep for some time.

“Would you like to join me?” he asked when he was finished.

Genji huffed. “I don’t think it’s for me. I already know, and I’d rather sleep.”

Hanzo sighed, but he had been prepared for that answer. “Okay,” he said.

“You should do it though,” Genji said. “Jesse’s not even on base. It’s a good time.” He wondered, at that, where Jesse or anyone else might go in the middle of the night, in the middle of a storm, without any of the vehicles that would have tipped Hanzo off to someone leaving. He asked. “A mission.” He wondered at that too, but he left it alone.

He said his goodnight to Genji, then he finished preparing his tea. Genji had said it was a good time, and perhaps the dragons had come to him wanting something. He climbed into bed, armed with his tea in hand and a bottle of sake ready on the bedside table, and he inserted the flash drive. A cheerful sound greeted him, and Athena’s voice asked for his name and identification number. He spoke it aloud in the empty room. There was a single folder, labeled only “Dragons”. He snorted a little at the utter lack of creativity, then figured most people would expect it to be a codename. It was deceptive in its sheer honesty.

There were dozens of files, each meticulously labeled and organized chronologically. Some were scans of paperwork, a few photos, and some typed documents, but most were video files. Hanzo started from the beginning, with a quick mission brief. There were photos of Hanamura, cherry blossoms in full bloom, and it made Hanzo ache briefly. It was funny, in a way, how little they had known about the Shimada operations. There weren’t even photos from inside the compound, only the surrounding area and some blurred sattelite overheads. There were a couple pictures of Genji, happy and whole in the arcade and surrounding bars, that took Hanzo’s breath away to see. He tried to copy them over to the tablet, but Athena announced he didn’t have that access. There was only one photo of him, scowling in a poorly lit, unflattering shot.

The profiles some agent had sketched up in the beginning were funny the way the questions about the dragons had been. They gave away almost nothing except for an underestimation of their combat skills and a handwritten note calling Genji a “flight risk”. 

The next file was a video. The man in the video had dark skin, darker hair, a scarred face. Hanzo realized he had seen him before, the same way he’d seen Dr. Ziegler before. He was handsome behind the scars and had a gruff, deep voice. “No bullshit kinda guy,” Jesse had once described him. Gabriel Reyes. The video was surprisingly informal, addressed to someone named Jack. Hanzo thought about the old stories he'd heard, and he thought it might be Morrison. 

“I sent McCree in with Baqri and Dinh. Two of ‘em got through the first screening, and surprise, your favorite made it all the way. He killed Pelletier, too, so consider that another favor you owe me. Report was brief. McCree’s in there under some dumbass cowboy pseud as usual, and he says these Shimadas are right scary sons of bitches. No intel on the ‘dragons’ yet, but he says they’re obsessed with ‘em, got paintings of dragons, like actual big fucking lizards, everywhere.” Reyes chattered on a little more, but there was nothing especially revealing.

He read more reports, brief as they were. It seemed Reyes had not been fond of paperwork. But there were the videos, and Hanzo watched them each in turn. Reyes described things the way Jesse had described them, had nicknames for the elders and many of the guards. He reported that Jesse had “cozied up to” Genji right away but was having trouble with “the bitchy one”. There were no reports about dragons, only a list of Genji and Hanzo’s schedules that Reyes sounded bored reading. At the three week mark, one of the videos made Hanzo perk up. “McCree got in a pickle yesterday, shot some folks trying to get the little Shimada. Not gonna file an official report. They were just yakuza. The kid sounded edgy on the phone though, didn’t report in right away either. Said he was just tired, but I don’t know. You know how he gets. I attached the call for you.” Hanzo swallowed, listened to the next file, and there it was, Jesse’s voice the way he remembered it, before age and smoke and alcohol had roughened it up quite so much. He gave the report Reyes had described, and Hanzo waited, anxious, for what he knew was sure to come up eventually.

“You’re late,” Reyes growled out. “Fuck were you doing?”

“Nothin’, boss. Sleepin’. You know how Deadeye does me.”

Reyes grunted, unconvinced. “You behaving yourself?”

“You know it. On my worst behavior, as always.” Reyes snorted out a laugh. The call cut off soon after.

He watched more videos, but the next several were uninformative, mostly Reyes quickly reiterating he had heard nothing new. Reyes had plenty to say about Genji, but he said almost nothing about Hanzo. No reports, nothing beyond an amused observation that Hanzo wasn’t just “bitchy”, he was boring. Hanzo opened a scanned file, paperwork demanding the return of a field agent, signed by Reyes, then another overriding the order, signed by one Jack Morrison.

The next video was more interesting. “Looks like you get your way, Jack. McCree finally found something and says we can’t pull him out now. They got ambushed last night, some other yakuza and a bunch of mercs McCree thinks are Talon. He says he fainted, used Deadeye three times. Don't think anybody knew he could do that. He doesn't know how they got outta there either, but the Shimada heir’s still alive, so somebody did the ingrate's job for him.” Here Reyes sighed, glared into the camera. “Here’s your chance to tell me you told me so. McCree’s a fucking idiot. I’ll let you hear the recording yourself.”

The video cut off there, and Hanzo held his breath as he opened the voice file. It seemed uneventful at first, until Reyes finally said, “You’ve been acting shady, kid.”

“Ain’t that my job?” Jesse quipped, and Reyes gave a long sigh.

“What aren’t you telling me?” Jesse tried to deflect, made some joke, and Reyes snapped at him. “It’s my job to know what you’re doing. If you’re in over your head—”

“It’s nothin’, boss. Feelin’ nervy about that ambush, but I’m fine.”

“Bullshit, you’re fine. I know you.” Reyes growled again. “What did you do?”

“I… Fine. I fucked up, but it ain’t what you think.” Reyes huffed, and Jesse went on. “I mighta got involved with somebody.”

“This why you were so dead set on staying before?” Jesse laughed but didn’t answer. Reyes grunted. “Who?” Jesse didn’t answer right away, and Reyes pushed. “It doesn’t have to go in any official reports.”

“I… doubt that’s gonna hold, boss,” Jesse said.

“You fuckin’ one of the Shimadas? Which one?” Jesse hesitated. “You’re real friendly with Genji. Please tell me it’s not him. You aren’t that stupid.”

Jesse laughed again, sounding like he was in pain. “No. Hanzo. The, uh, other one.”

There was a strained silence, then Reyes cursed in roughly four different languages. “I take it back. You’re dumber than a bag of rocks. The hell is wrong with you? This wasn’t some honeypot mission.” Reyes cursed again, ranted for too long and called Jesse all kinds of colorful names, but he mostly returned again and again to idiot. “I swear to God, McCree, if you compromised this mission because you can’t stop thinking with your dick—”

“Ain’t like that,” Jesse said quietly.

“The hell did you say?”

“I said it ain’t like that. He’s not… I wouldn’t’a done it if it was just that.”

Reyes paused, breathed out like he was ready to charge. “You see how that’s worse, right?” His tone was strange, like he was drawing on a reserve of previously undiscovered patience.

“I know, boss. I know.” Jesse’s voice was quiet, even sweet. “Couldn’t help it. He’s not like anybody I ever met before.”

Hanzo felt the weight coil up in his chest, a familiar pain. He had expected it, eventually, had assumed that Overwatch — Blackwatch — would have found out sooner or later. He didn't expect it to bring back that old ache, though. He blamed the sake. “I bet he isn’t," Reyes said. "You don’t spend a lotta time around the rich and shiny type.” Jesse grunted, started what sounded like a protest. “Keep that shit to yourself,” Reyes said, not entirely unkindly. “You’re right this has to go on record. Nobody needs to hear you gush about your boyfriend.”

Jesse told him about getting caught, about his new arrangement with the elders. It worked out for Reyes; the elders wanted Jesse to hunt down the suspected Talon agents, figure out who they were and what they wanted. Overwatch wanted the same thing as the elders had, and Jesse was in prime position. He confessed to Reyes he wanted more time, knowing full well it was going to be put on record. He asked Reyes for permission to consider Hanzo a potential asset. “Might be I could convince him, boss. Doubt he’ll rat on his family, but he might be willin’ to leave.” Reyes accused him of thinking with his dick again, and Jesse grunted. “You don’t know what it’s like here. I’m not sure Hanzo’s got it figured out how bad he has it. If he goes, I know Genji will. Blackwatch gets two badass ninjas.”

“And you get to keep your boyfriend, if he doesn’t hate you after.” Jesse laughed a little, but he didn’t deny it. “You know it’s not gonna happen, McCree. You think he’s gonna leave that life for you? There's a reason all you assholes in Blackwatch get dragged in dirt poor and stupid. Even if he does leave, he’s not gonna thank you for lying to him. Did you think any of this through?”

“Maybe I’m feelin’ optimistic lately.”

“Christ, McCree.” Reyes paused, and there was a clicking like he was typing something. “You serious they’re as good as these reports?”

“At least that good, boss. Bet Hanzo could give Ana a run for her money, and you ain’t seen CQC like this before.” He sounded almost proud.

“Permission granted, with some serious fucking reservations. You find out about those dragons, you can bring your boyfriend home to meet us.” He paused, then added, “Be careful, Jesse. I wanna say ‘I told you so’ while you’re still alive to hear it.”

Hanzo stopped then, sat back in the glow of his tablet and let his head fall back against the wall. The weight in his chest persisted, but he didn’t fight it this time, instead nurtured the little ache until his breathing returned to normal. In some ways it was worse digging around in his past like this, even if Genji had been right that it brought him some comfort to know for certain. None of this included anything he hadn’t already known or guessed though. It felt pointless to pursue, only made him nostalgic or sad or angry by turns. Something about Reyes put him off, made him uneasy. Hanzo found himself prone to agree with Reyes’ assessments of Jesse’s mission updates. He had told Jesse himself that he’d shown exceedingly poor judgment; Hanzo had called him a terrible spy. It was difficult, then, to pin down what it was beyond a vague sense of dislike.

Hanzo rubbed at his eyes, looked at the screen and clicked the next file. He learned little else; there were no more voice files from Jesse, whether lost or redacted or simply never there. He had known about Talon, figured by now that’s what Jesse had been doing. He learned Overwatch command were impatient, needed more from Jesse than his “nothing new” reports. There was a file from Morrison, this time, urging Jesse’s removal. The annulment was signed by Reyes. Reyes reported he’d given an ultimatum: get intel on the dragons or Talon, or come home. Toward the end, he read the orders for an emergency extraction. Both Morrison and Reyes signed. Reyes issued another video. “McCree got nothing from the older brother but a death sentence.” 

Hanzo swallowed past a lump in his throat.

Lovesick idiot swears it’s the other way around, that the kid saved his life. I don’t fucking know any more, Jack. Don’t have shit on these dragons, either, whatever they are, but put somebody on Shimada detail anyway. Someone blew McCree’s cover. Who knows if Talon will stick around. Total mission failure. Reyes out.”

Total mission failure. The words rang in his head. Jesse had reported to his commander that he had found nothing at all on the dragons, had lied to Reyes and Jack Morrison, to Overwatch and Blackwatch alike. Hanzo didn’t know why, but he had kept Hanzo’s secret. He skimmed the later reports, mostly short files on new agents’ suspicions about Shimada activities, far sparser on details and frequently wrong.

Toward the end, there was another video file, dated several weeks after he had tried to kill Genji. He opened it, though he had to drain the last of his sake to brace himself.

“I thought we were done with these Shimadas now that the heir’s gone off the deep end. They won’t be much of a threat now. That new asset we picked up is definitely the baby brother, though. I had McCree in to verify. Ziegler got the kid patched up enough to talk. He’s got a few screws loose, mad as a cat in a bag, but he’s not going anywhere for a while. You can check the personnel files for more, but I figure this part should go on record for the Hanamura mission. He doesn’t know how he got here, but I did some digging. Patil says she took a call from Hanamura, and some woman gave her McCree’s name to get us to pick up Shimada. I pressed McCree about it and he admitted he gave one of the guards the number.”

Hanzo didn’t hear the rest, only stared at the screen, watching Reyes gesture and speak while his own mind raced. If Jesse hadn’t been there, hadn’t given Azami the number.... When Hanzo had thought of it at all before, he had thought Jesse was partly responsible for what he had done; Jesse had manipulated him, and in his fear to prevent it from happening again, Hanzo had only made himself more vulnerable to his family's pressures. But this. This was a cleaner line, point A to point B, than any of the convoluted ways Jesse bore the blame. Without Jesse, Genji would have died. 

He started the video again, tried to focus this time, but the rest was bland by comparison. Hanzo didn’t follow the rest, didn’t find it half as interesting.

He clicked on the next video, second to last, and it was Reyes again with a brief update. “I thought we were done with this, but guess what, Jack? Genji finally told me about the dragons. I thought he was out of his mind on painkillers. He said it was inside of him. Then I thought he was talking about some kind of drug, you know, PCP or some shit to make them feel invincible. So he showed me and it’s real. A literal dragon, Jack.” Reyes laughed and went on for a moment about how insane he knew he sounded. Hanzo could see, even in his laughter, the spark of ambition, of greed. “That’s why McCree couldn’t find a weapon: it’s inside them, Genji and his brother both. Hell, Genji says his brother has two. I asked McCree how he spent so much time inside the brother and never found anything.” Reyes laughed again. 

Hanzo was reminded, intensely, that he disliked him, no matter what Genji or Jesse had said in his favor.

He didn’t like that joke, got real sore about it, but I thought you’d appreciate it. Hanzo Shimada got my best agent wrapped around his finger, nearly ruined him, almost killed an actual dragon with his own, and has taken out twice as many yakuza in the past few months as McCree ever did. McCree swears he’s not our kind of threat, but I’m still thinking about whether I should let Genji put him down or recruit him.” On the video, Reyes laughed again, and it grated across his nerves, made the dragons writhe inside him.

Hanzo tuned out the rest, mostly Reyes going on about “fucking dragons” repeatedly, and the files ended there. Hanzo rubbed the bridge of his nose, ran his hands roughly through his hair. He felt strung out, exhausted by everything. It was Genji who had told Overwatch about the dragons; Jesse had played stupid, even then, even after Hanzo had tried to kill Genji. He had let Reyes believe for years that he had failed the mission, and he had been part of saving Genji’s life. He thought about Jesse’s note: All I want is for you to stop looking for my knife in your back. He almost laughed now, worn out and sore and perhaps a little embarrassed.

Hanzo knew, too, after everything he had seen and heard on the videos, why Gabriel Reyes seemed familiar. He searched back through the videos, found the one where Reyes had left one of his guns in sight of the camera, and he paused it there. The shotgun was huge and distinctive, as distinctive as the body language or his excitement over the dragons or that grating, cold laugh. The dragons knew him, and so did Hanzo. 

Chapter Text

He thought he should tell Jesse; it seemed right, given all he had seen and heard in the videos. But Jesse was away, and Hanzo wasn’t yet interested in untangling the knots of anger and blame between them.

He looked at his comm, surprised to find it was already morning. Genji would be meditating by now. Hanzo blearily splashed water on his face, and he went out to the cliffside to find his brother. Zenyatta and Genji were together, silent save for the robotic hum and the hiss of Genji’s breathing. Genji wore his faceplate, but he seemed to tense at Hanzo’s approach.

Hanzo only sat with them; his own effort at meditation was futile, but he could listen to the waves and think. Reyes was Reaper. Reyes was former Blackwatch, in Overwatch before that. Reyes hunted other former agents. Reyes had tried to recruit Hanzo for Talon.

And yet, Hanzo had heard him order Jesse to hunt Talon down, long ago. Reyes had slipped once, called Jesse by his first name when he was worried for him. Reyes hadn’t wanted Jesse to die, and it had seemed personal, not merely the fear of losing an agent. Reyes was not responsible for the dossier the Shimadas had received all those years ago, Hanzo was sure. Someone else had done it, likely from inside Overwatch.

He made no sense to Hanzo, not from the recordings and not even as Reaper. He disliked Reyes’ crudeness, and he disliked Reaper’s eerie wrongness. He wondered if that colored his judgment, but he did not think so, not on this. They were the same person, but it meant Reaper was only a person after all. The smoke, the curious grate of his voice, these were improbable, but so were the dragons, so was a man who could summon the desert heat and shoot six bullets at once without error.

Genji stirred beside him. “Good morning,” he said, and Zenyatta did the same.

Hanzo only grunted. “There is something we must discuss.”

Genji sighed, a little hiss of air. “Before breakfast?” Zenyatta laughed, and Hanzo found the sound strangely pleasant, not so off-putting as before.

“Yes,” he said, and he looked directly at Genji. “Alone, if we can? It is important.”

Zenyatta hummed to himself and bid them goodbye. Genji sighed and nodded, and he removed the faceplate for Hanzo to see him. “If this is more to do with Jesse before you’ve talked, I’d really rather have breakfast.”

Hanzo snorted, then he shook his head. He didn’t know where to begin. He looked out at the water, and he began with the conclusion. “Gabriel Reyes is Reaper.” Genji was silent, long enough that Hanzo finally turned to look at him again. “I watched his videos. It is the same man. He uses the same guns.”

“This is not strong evidence,” Genji finally said.

“Do you not believe me?”

“I...” Genji paused. “I don’t want to doubt you. Or doubt how you know.”

“His voice is the same. It is... like yours. Different with the mask off, but the same anyway. He moved the same way, spoke the same way. And Reyes had Reaper’s guns, in the videos. The dragons responded the same. They knew him, too.”

Genji looked thoughtful. “You’re sure?”

“Yes. He was obsessed with the dragons, in the end. The one you showed him.” Hanzo gave him a wry look, and Genji shrugged. “When he came to recruit me, it was for the dragons.”

“Many people are greedy for the dragons. This is why we hid them when we could.”

“I am certain,” Hanzo said, more firmly now. He had expected Genji to simply believe him.

Genji seemed to sense his frustration. “I don’t believe you’re wrong,” he said gently.

“Then what do you believe?”

Genji looked uncomfortable. Instead of answering directly, he said, “Gabriel Reyes was a complicated man. When I met him he was angry, and he was ambitious. But he was a strong leader, and he didn’t send us in needlessly to die. Jesse said he was kinder, before I got there.”

Hanzo snorted. “He insulted Jesse often on the recordings.”

“That sounds right,” Genji said, laughing a little. “I didn’t understand their relationship. But Jesse respected him, and I learned to as well. Despite his manner or his methods, he was a man who believed in redemption, for all of us under his charge. Perhaps you understand why this was an important part of my time with him.” Hanzo didn’t flinch away, but he felt his fingers twitch. “What you ask me to believe is... difficult. So I don’t doubt you, but it is not easy to accept.”

“When did you last see him?” Hanzo asked.

“Seven years ago.” Genji looked at him, and he seemed to sigh. “I suppose that’s time enough for a man to change. But he was pronounced dead when the Geneva headquarters exploded.”

Hanzo swallowed. “You were also pronounced dead once.”

Genji hummed, didn’t seem to take any offense. “Yes. Nobody found Reyes’ body, but we’ve learned to accept that we don’t always get a resolution.”

Hanzo didn’t know what else to say. He remained certain, but combing through it with Genji, he wondered who else would bother to believe. Genji at least understood the dragons. “The evidence is poor for those unwilling to hear,” he said.

“Yes,” Genji told him. “Jesse will not thank you for this. They were close.” Genji was watching him, measuring. “Do you plan to tell him?”

“I don’t know how to avoid it.”

They agreed to keep it between themselves for now, until Hanzo could tell Jesse about it. It had been his suggestion, and Genji only shrugged and agreed. Despite this, he found himself uneasy with the decision. He thought about Hana, about Mei and Lúcio. Reaper hunted Overwatch agents, and knowing who he was might give insight to his motivations. Might better prepare them for an encounter. 

He sat in his room, went back over the files. He tried to negotiate with Athena, and he felt foolish and exhausted with himself, yelling at a computer to let him do the things he needed. Athena would not copy the files, nor would she allow him to alter them. He took a shower to give himself a break, then he returned to his tablet. “Athena, can you bring up other files on Gabriel Reyes?” 

“Of course, Agent Hanzo,” she said cheerily, as if he had not spent the past hour yelling at her.

There were very few though. Hanzo, it seemed, did not have a great deal of access to the Overwatch database. He learned nothing he could not have found elsewhere: how Reyes had been there right from the start, commanded Overwatch and then Blackwatch, earned dozens of medals and commendations. He was reported dead in Geneva six years ago. Mission reports, meeting transcripts, video files, anything that could have told him about Reyes’ character were all out of his reach. He tried anyway, pestered Athena with the insistence that it was important. “I’m sure, Agent Hanzo. Unfortunately I cannot grant you access at this time.”

He breathed out hard through his nose. “Who can?”

“Agent Winston is in charge of security protocols.”

Winston. Had Winston allowed Jesse to give Hanzo access to the other files? Or had Jesse been granted permissions he had not? “Can you show me files on Reaper? The Talon agent?”

He found, again, little new information. There were some transcripts from meetings he had already attended. He read Lena’s mission report from his apartment in Hanamura, but it included only that she had seen Reaper and lost him, nothing more. He read the report from Winston’s attack, and he was chilled at the reminder that it had happened here, at the watchpoint. There was security footage of Reaper’s attack though, and Hanzo remained certain.

In the end he went to Winston himself. He texted Genji to let him know. He found Winston alone in his lab with the door open, huge fingers tapping deftly along a massive keyboard. Hanzo cleared his throat.

“Ah, Agent Hanzo,” Winston said by way of greeting. “My apologies, I’ll only be a minute.” Hanzo waited as Winston wrapped up, then the gorilla turned to him, adjusted himself to sit comfortably on the floor. He gestured at a chair nearby, but Hanzo chose to stand. “Is that peanut butter?”

“Oh. Yes. Genji said you might enjoy it.” Winston eyed him with open curiosity, as if the gesture were unexpected. Hanzo was uncomfortable; he supposed Winston was right to find it suspicious. “I forgot a utensil. I don’t know if you need—”

“It’s fine, thank you. This was thoughtful of you. So what brings you?” Winston asked, adjusting his glasses.

Hanzo braced himself. He thought about Genji’s questions, wondered if a scientist would really trust something that was mostly gut feeling. “I have reason to believe I know Reaper’s identity.”

Winston looked at him, guarded and measuring. “Please close the door, Agent Hanzo.” Hanzo did as he was told, then he turned and launched into it right away. At Winston’s request, Hanzo showed him the video where he had seen the gun. Winston compared the gun there to the same security footage Hanzo had found, zoomed in to examine the pixelated details. When they were finished, Winston seemed thoughtful. “I must ask you to keep this to yourself,” he said.

“We can’t send agents against him unaware,” Hanzo said. “They need to know who they’re fighting. It might tell us his motivations.”

Winston hummed. “Indeed, but this isn’t enough evidence.”

“You agreed with the conclusion.”

“For now. It would explain how he found the watchpoint. It may explain his interest in former Overwatch agents. But similar guns and body language are... unsatisfactory. I’m afraid your dragons won’t hold up to either scientific or legal standards of evidence.” Winston sounded apologetic. “We need more.”

Hanzo growled to himself, but Genji had already prepared him for this. “Then it’s a lead.”

“Absolutely. A compelling one.”

“But in the meantime, you want to keep secrets from your team,” Hanzo thought aloud. It wasn’t so different from his own impulse, but it felt wrong now. He thought again of Hana. “It’s information that could save someone’s life.”

They debated, as they always did, with a strained politeness, until Winston bargained down from full secrecy to a timeline. They would look for what evidence they could and, regardless of what they found, tell the team in two weeks. If there was anything especially convincing, it could happen sooner. It was acceptable that he’d already told Genji, but Winston resisted telling Jesse on the grounds that he’d be particularly affected, and it would be wrong to put him through it without certainty. Hanzo was certain, though, and Jesse’s closeness to Reyes was the reason to tell him. They could not agree on this one. 

Winston huffed. “How did you get this file anyway?”

“It was a gift,” he said, and Winston looked over his glasses at him.

“Athena wouldn’t grant you access for just anyone,” Winston mused. “I could look it up.”

“Then do that,” he said. His patience was wearing thin, making him rude to someone who did in fact have both the best intentions and plenty of reason to be skeptical of him. He breathed out roughly through his nose. He thought back on another discussion he’d had with Genji, not long after Genji had arrived. He thought about his panics and his outburst at Jesse — however justified some of it still was — and he thought, too, about Mei, sitting with her tea at three in the morning. He thought about Hana and Lena’s restless energy, the way they filled every hour with something to do. He even thought about Jesse’s occasional moodiness; although that could have been as much his fault as something deeper, he thought it was more than that. “I have a request.”

Winston shifted his weight, clearly equally impatient with him. “Yes, agent?”

“I believe it is irresponsible to assign agents to these missions without full care.” Winston balked a little, and Hanzo had to work to be less commanding. “Our healthcare is more than adequate. I mean,” he cleared his throat, uncomfortable with any admission here. “I mean I have noticed that many of our agents experience sleepless nights. They exhibit signs of... poor temperament.”

Winston looked caught between being concerned and being amused by his reticence. “Agent Hanzo, are you suggesting we need a mental health professional on staff?”

“Yes, thank you. If it’s a matter of cost, I assure you I can help. I—”

“You don’t have to justify it,” Winston said kindly. “It is a good idea. We may need help with the funds, but I will ask Angela if she has any recommendations.”

Hanzo nodded and saw himself out.

There was little else to occupy him. He did finally sleep, but the following day was another nightmare of restlessness and frustration. The irony wasn’t lost on him; he had spent two months refusing to speak to Jesse, but now when he needed to talk the man was nowhere to be found. Athena was less than helpful on that front. He spoke to Genji again, this time after lunch. With Genji’s permission, he explained the full details of what he had said to Jesse. Genji only muttered, “Harsh.” There was no lecture on cruelty, no reminder that he should have listened sooner. Genji seemed to think he wasn’t entirely wrong, but he was hesitant to reach entirely the same conclusions, only shrugged it off and told him again to talk to Jesse. 

Hana tore the sunglasses from Hanzo’s face, laughing as she thrust another pair at him. “These next!” she demanded, and he dutifully tried them on. Lúcio was on another supply run. He usually did them with Jesse, the only other of them who was particularly adept at navigating Llanito, but Jesse was still away. Hana had beamed to be invited, then rushed to invite Hanzo too. She was nervous to be alone with Lúcio, she admitted, and besides, Hanzo had been grumpy and some fresh air would do him good. Genji had said the same after the third time he’d tried to talk about Jesse or Reyes.

He had tried explaining that he got fresh air every morning when he meditated, uncertain going somewhere so public was really the solution, but Hana alternated between glaring and pouting until he caved. So here they were at the market, playing at being tourists. He hated to admit she was right, but the change was refreshing. Hanzo liked to tease her about Lúcio when he was out of earshot, and she blushed fiercely in response. “Are you sure I’m not intruding on your date?” He’d asked it a few times already, but she still didn’t disappoint.

“It is not a date! Why would I bring you to a date?” She blushed again, huffing. “Now try these.” He put on the next pair, and she put on her own, a pair with an ugly purple frame and bright pink lenses. “Selfie time!” He scowled at the camera, as she’d no doubt come to expect, and she snapped the shot of the two of them. She rolled her eyes over the picture before she deleted it, complaining that she was “too blotchy”.

“You mean blushing?” Hanzo teased, and she scoffed at him.

Lúcio returned to them, and together they brought the car around to load it up with all the boxes he’d purchased. Then Hanzo offered to treat them both at a nearby café. “I told you bringing Dad along would be worth it,” Hana said, and Lúcio laughed at the glare Hanzo shot her.

They sat outside, lounging in the sunlight with their drinks and sweets. Hanzo watched the crowd, only half listening as Hana and Lúcio chattered about music. He caught a young man staring at him and tensed, until he realized the kind of stare it was. He smirked a little, liked the way the man smiled back with interest then moved along. He watched a tiny drama unfold with a child and their father, the child crying over something until their mother arrived, a pastry in hand. The child and the mother chattered quietly, the woman smiling as she brushed tears from their cheek. Then the adults spoke to each other, with a tenderness that hit Hanzo in the gut. He only knew two words in Spanish; they made him flinch.

“You alright?” Lúcio asked, head tilted to stare at him. 

“We should get back,” he answered, still watching the little family.

“Let me get a few more pictures,” Hana insisted, and he heard the clicks as her phone went off several times, turned his head to see her taking another selfie with Lúcio this time.

They drove back to the base, Hana and Lúcio chattering in the front while Hanzo rested in the back. On the way, he received a message on his comm device: Meeting in Room 5, report ASAP. They unloaded the car and took their time filling the closet of the big industrial kitchen with the dry goods they had picked up. After, Hanzo fished out the boxes of tea he had found, and Hana skipped ahead of them both, shopping bag in hand. He shared a glance with Lúcio over her excitement. 

As they neared the room, Hana slowed. They could hear chaos inside, and Jesse nearly bowled all three of them over as he stormed out of the room. He grunted out an apology, and Hana glared, brushing at herself. He was back; Hanzo wondered if he had brought the chaos with him. It wouldn’t be entirely out of character. Unthinkingly, he followed Jesse a few steps. "Wait," he said, and Jesse looked back at him, expression worn and a little angry.

“Now ain’t the time,” Jesse answered.

“It’s urgent,” he said. He could feel Hana and Lúcio staring.

“Yeah? Then tell Winston. He’s in there.” Jesse flung a hand out toward the room, and Hanzo could see that his knuckles were bruised and split. “I need a goddamn nap before I deal with anythin’ else, ’specially comin’ from you. Go.” He turned on his heel and walked off, heavy steps echoing in the hall. Hana, for once, didn’t make a joke. She watched Jesse go, looking a little thoughtful and more than a little annoyed. 

All three of them entered the room to find the real source of the chaos: former Overwatch Commander Jack Morrison, alive and well, with a hell of a bruise on his square jaw.

Chapter Text

Jack Morrison was alive. In the conference room, Hanzo exchanged a quick glance with Winston, who only shook his huge head. Perhaps this would lend credence to Hanzo’s claims about Reyes, but now was not the time. The room was in chaos, a mass of voices and questions, and Morrison bore them all with a sort of quiet steaming anger.

He had survived the blast, buried under rubble, but he had come to on his own. He’d taken his time to recover, and he had spent his recent years working unlawfully as Soldier: 76. From what Hanzo gathered from Morrison’s gruff confessions, he had intended to come to them as the vigilante. He had sent a covert message to the watchpoint, intercepted by Winston. Jesse, it seemed, had been sent to meet him in Tunisia and recognized him immediately. He had quite literally punched a hole in Morrison’s plan.

Not everyone was so distrustful. Reinhardt swept the man into a hug, dwarfed even him with his huge arms. Many of the older members did the same, or they shook his hand. Nothing suggested they were displeased anyway. Hanzo wondered. Unbidden, and entirely inappropriate to the moment, a memory floated to the surface: Jesse, chin propped on the arm he’d flung across Hanzo’s bare chest, grinning at him with his eyes heavy-lidded. Been told I got problems with authority, he had said. In the tapes, Reyes had sarcastically called Jesse Morrison’s “favorite”. Hanzo wondered how deep their mutual distaste ran.

He glanced at Genji, who lingered toward the back of the crowd. It seemed he too showed some hesitation to welcome this man back into the fold. Eventually they were introduced. Morrison was pleasant enough, if a little condescending, to Hana and Lúcio. He eyed Hanzo though, gaze scraping over him intently behind his orange visor.

“Hanzo is our newest agent,” Winston said, breaking the awkward silence.

“Hanzo Shimada,” Morrison said. Hanzo didn’t miss the way Morrison glanced at Genji then at the door where Jesse had gone. Hanzo was reminded that Morrison knew more than all but Genji and Jesse themselves, and he stiffened under the man’s scrutiny. It was earned, a dozen times over, but Hanzo still met his stare by squaring his shoulders.

“Jack Morrison,” he said, matched Morrison’s tone, let the certainty that he knew more than he should creep in. He didn’t know exactly what was on his face, but others in the room went tense, Morrison most of all. Hanzo glanced conspicuously at the bruise on Morrison’s jaw, and he smirked at it.

Morrison scowled, and it was plain he didn’t like him. Hanzo wasn’t sure he liked him either, found he trusted Genji’s hesitation. Begrudging though the admission was, he also trusted Jesse’s anger more than he trusted the man in front of him. Morrison said nothing else, let himself be pulled back into other conversations, but the look he shot Hanzo said enough: I’m watching you.

He cooked dinner with Hana then took it to his room to eat with Genji. They sat together on the loveseat, discussing Morrison in hushed tones. Genji didn’t dislike him, not really, but it seemed Blackwatch had ruffled Morrison’s feathers, especially toward the end. Odd, Hanzo thought, for the man who had been part of its creation. Odder still, when Blackwatch had been instrumental to the success of key Overwatch interventions. He thought about what Jesse had told him the first day: that Blackwatch did the things that kept Overwatch’s hands clean. He mentioned it to Genji, who nodded.

“I won’t defend everything we did. It was ugly. If I were the same man then as I am now, I wouldn’t have agreed to much of it. It got worse too, before the end.” Genji stuffed a wad of noodles into his mouth, followed up with a slice of beef. “But it served its purpose well enough, and Overwatch and the UN both turned a blind eye as long as we got results and it stayed out of the media.”

Hanzo nodded, smirked to himself. “Like yakuza.”

Genji snorted. “Like yakuza,” he agreed. “Overwatch got the credit, and we kept our heads down. If it is Reyes, perhaps we’ll find the source of his grudge there.”

Hanzo thought about it. “Were any of his known victims in Blackwatch with you?”

“Not with me, but Jesse would know more. He was there much longer.”

Hanzo considered it for a moment, realized he had no idea how long that was. For such a formative part of his life, Genji had only been in Blackwatch for three years, barely more than two of those outside the medbay. “How long?”

“You should get the story from him,” Genji said, and Hanzo pressed his lips thin, fought the urge to roll his eyes. He should have expected the answer. Still, he looked at Genji until his brother caved. “Fine. He was around at the start. Reyes personally picked him up at sixteen, seventeen, maybe? Pretty young.”

“We had dragons by that age,” Hanzo said.

“It’s still young. I don’t think we recruited anyone else under eighteen. UN rules. Hard to keep a moral stance against child soldiers if you’re actively making them. It might be the only rule Reyes didn’t bend, at least after Jesse.” Genji laughed a little at that, and Hanzo wondered. Wondered if his brother was able to separate the two, Reyes and Reaper, in some way he was not. They were the same to him. But Genji sat comfortably with Hanzo, who was both his brother and his would-be murderer.

“Tell me more about your time in Blackwatch,” he said, and he only listened as he ate. Genji had been so full of rage then, eager for missions, for the hunt as much as the kill. But some of his old mischief had remained; he had gained a reputation as a troublemaker, even among Blackwatch, and he’d been dragged into Reyes’ office for reprimands more than a few times. Reyes had compared him to Jesse and paired them up, hoping Jesse might be able to draw from personal experience to rein him in. Mostly, he did, but Genji had also gotten Jesse into trouble Reyes insisted he’d grown out of.

“We pranked Morrison once. Only once,” Genji said, grinning. “It took him forever to get the purple out of his hair.”

“What was Morrison like? With Reyes?” Hanzo wondered, despite his dislike of the man, if he might find an ally there.

“They were old war buddies. Maybe more, I don’t know.” Genji shrugged.


“More like…” Genji snickered. “They were just rumors, and Jesse never would give me a straight answer. But I thought they were together. Or maybe exes. Or maybe should have been together, and shit wouldn’t have gone so badly. They didn’t really get along much while I was around, but Jesse said they used to.”

Hanzo was uncomfortably reminded of the way he and Jesse had danced around each other. He still didn’t know where it might lead next. He cleared his throat, then he prompted Genji for more stories, let them wash over him as he tried to grapple with his racing thoughts.

He knocked on Jesse’s door. He had tried to avoid it, tried to put it off, but the sense of it looming kept him awake. At least if Jesse didn’t answer or told him to go away, it might be enough for him to sleep.

Jesse opened the door and seemed less than pleased to see him. He might have been drunk, or at least drinking. “What now?” he asked brusquely.

“I need to speak with you,” Hanzo said, and he held up the flash drive.

Jesse made a face at it. “Now ain’t a good time,” he said.

“When is it ever?” Hanzo snipped back, but he realized Jesse might have had a point. He breathed in and held it in a moment, then he tried again. “It isn’t about… that.” He lowered his voice further. “I don’t think you want everyone in the hall to hear. It’s about your old commander.”

Jesse’s eyebrows shot up before his face turned suspicious. But he let Hanzo in, stepped wide to give him the space. Hanzo took his time to look about the room. It matched his almost exactly, a mirror of its layout. And it was tidy, far more so than he had expected. Jesse himself so often looked disheveled; it was difficult to imagine him making the bed or straightening his things, but it appeared that he did. Hanzo thought about Reyes and Morrison, about their military backgrounds. Jesse had been with them since he was a teenager. Perhaps the habits stuck.

Nevertheless, the bottles in the trash can did not escape his attention. Nor did the one on Jesse’s coffee table, open without a glass. “Well?” Jesse prompted, dropping heavily down onto the little couch. Hanzo stared for a moment, wondering when Jesse had begun to take up so much space. He had always been annoyingly tall, but he didn't always loom so large.

Hanzo felt uncomfortable, uncertain whether he too should sit. He decided to stay put, stood with his arms crossed. “I went through the files. All of them.” Jesse snorted again, but he didn’t say anything about it. Hanzo cleared his throat. “I have reason to believe that… that Reyes is Reaper.” Jesse’s face screwed up, angry and confused. Hanzo rushed to get it out before Jesse could tell him off. “Reaper carries the same guns,” he said. “He was obsessed with the dragons. He moves the same, he talks the same—”

“Gabe died in Geneva,” Jesse snapped.

“So did Morrison, by all reports,” Hanzo said. He didn’t know why he felt so frantic, but he could feel his pulse racing. “It’s him.” He wondered briefly if he would ever be able to tell someone without repeating himself.

“You don’t know who you’re talkin’ about. Gabe wasn’t like that.” Jesse sneered at him, radiating his discomfort from every muscle in his body.

Hanzo refused to let it deter him. “There’s a video of Reaper’s attack on Winston here at the watchpoint. You can see the guns for yourself.”

Jesse sat back, still angry. Hanzo hadn’t ever seen him angry, not really, he realized. Not directed right at him like this. “Why’re you tellin’ me this?” he demanded.

“I thought you should know,” Hanzo said.

“You thought I should know that you spent a few hours with some tapes, saw a gun, and decided my dead commander must be a Talon merc?”

“The dragons recognized him,” Hanzo protested.

Jesse laughed; it was a cold, bitter sound. “Yeah? From some tapes? Genji said all they do is respond to their owner.”

Hanzo bristled. “Genji is not all-knowing. They have their own will.” Jesse only stared at him, heavy brows drawn down over narrowed eyes. “Have you ever seen him up close? Reaper?”

“No,” Jesse admitted. “Is that all? Just wanted to come by and let me know you think a dead man’s out to get us?” He tried not to react to the tone, though he was torn between flinching and squaring his shoulders. Instead, he nodded. “Great. Thanks. Get out.”

Hanzo did react to that, bristled again at his tone. Jesse wasn’t going to believe him, had no reason to. Genji and Winston had been skeptical, too, had told him the evidence wasn’t enough, but at least they hadn’t dismissed him outright. He went to the door anyway, but he paused before he could open it. “Jesse,” he said, and Jesse’s head snapped up, anger shot through with something unreadable. “You know he is hunting for us. If I’m right, you may be a priority target.” Hanzo took a breath, cleared his throat again. “Or he may want something from you.”

He should have said more, he thought. He’d had be careful on the tip of his tongue. Instead, he let Jesse’s stare drive him off.

Jesse avoided him. It was obvious enough to anyone paying attention, and Hanzo did pay attention now. There were still things to discuss, but it seemed Genji had been right again: Jesse wanted nothing to do with the man who had told him Gabriel Reyes might be Reaper. If his note was to be believed, he wanted nothing more to do with Hanzo even without that. Hanzo left him alone. There was no good timing here, but Winston had promised to make the announcement about Reyes soon enough. It seemed the rest would have to wait, if it ever came up again at all. 

Winston did call the meeting, sooner than planned. Two days after Morrison’s arrival, the entire team gathered in a conference room. Someone had prepared snacks, thoughtfully enough, and there were carafes of coffee and tea and water. Hanzo suspected Mei, at the very least; he would have to ask and thank her later. It was curiously formal and businesslike, more like a genuine organization than they had been since Hanzo arrived. Winston was at the head of the table, with Jack Morrison at the other end as if he belonged there.

There was little preamble. “We have information on the mercenary known as Reaper.” Morrison said it, not Winston. Hanzo glanced at Jesse, sandwiched between Lena and Fareeha. Jesse’s face was unknowable, but his hand twitched and curled, the fading bruises on his knuckles shifting from green and yellow to white. “Winston and I put our work together. We have reason to suspect his true identity—”

“Gabe,” Jesse said, cutting to the point. He flinched as he said it, then his eyes flicked to Hanzo, sullen and angry as if it were Hanzo’s fault. “It’s Gabe.” Some of them were surprised, but the number was smaller than it should have been. Hanzo imagined the connections between them, how the rumor must have spread along these tiny networks. However it had come out, more of them knew than didn’t know. So much for keeping secrets.

Reinhardt spoke first. “Gabe? Reyes?” He was not one who had known, and the look on his face was difficult to comprehend. Shock perhaps; it was out of place on his usually smiling face. Hanzo was surprised to find he felt sympathy for him.

Morrison was glaring at Jesse. “Yes. Gabriel Reyes. For those unaware,” he said, shooting a glance to Lúcio, just to Hanzo’s side, “he was the former commander of Blackwatch. Covert ops.”

“And before that, Overwatch,” Jesse added, and Morrison stiffened further. Hanzo was not sure he understood either of them in that moment, but the entire room was tense, everyone’s eyes flicking between them both.

“Gabriel was reported dead,” Reinhardt said, mystified.

“So was Captain America over here,” Jesse replied. Reinhardt hummed, thoughtful, and he seemed to retreat into himself. Hanzo wondered how many shocks the man had survived, wondered if he struggled with the ghosts of his friends as Hanzo had struggled with Genji’s return. He wondered how many of them did the same.

“So what does this mean?” Lena asked. She looked to Winston.

“I was hoping to brainstorm. As a team,” said Winston. He adjusted his glasses, looking uncomfortable. He cleared his throat.

Morrison spoke instead, left Winston with his mouth hanging open. “The most obvious solution is to kill him, but I haven’t found a way that works. I thought I had him twice now, but he only comes back.”

“You tried to kill Gabe?” Jesse asked, voice low and dark.

Morrison looked at him, right in the eye. He said nothing, and everyone’s gazes twitched between them again. For the first time, Morrison seemed to give way, shoulders drooping. “It was before I suspected,” he admitted. Jesse grunted, but he seemed to relax marginally. “We need our scientists to figure out how he survives, and we may be able to do something.”

“So you’d still kill him,” Jesse growled.

“If we have to. He’s already killed former agents, and he’s attacked several of us. He threatens innocent people.” Morrison met his stare readily, but he seemed grim about it.

“Yeah? So has Amélie, and we all know that’s not really her in there. Who’s to say it ain’t the same for Gabe?” Jesse asked. Hanzo did not know who Amélie was, although he had heard her name whispered before. Several of the older members went tense or sad by turns. He was reminded here of how little he really knew about Overwatch’s past, and he had another reason to be irritated that he had not taken up Jesse’s offers of honest information before.

“We can’t let either of them run rampant, McCree. They’re terrorists,” Morrison said gruffly, and Jesse tensed again. The memory came again, of Jesse’s problems with authority. Hanzo had to look away from them, but he still knew with a strange certainty that Jack Morrison had been, still was, that authority.

Winston cleared his throat. “This is, of course, why we need some evidence for his… condition. And his motives. We also need debate. It isn’t a decision to be made lightly,” he said, and his voice went firmer, took on a determined authority Hanzo had never heard from him, “or unilaterally.” Winston looked right at Morrison.

Morrison’s shoulders went stiff. He was used to being heard, used to being in charge, and here with these people, he acted as though it was his role, his right to lead. Hanzo knew men like him, the sort who commanded as if others would naturally fall in line, whose tendency to take charge caused others to fall in line more often than not; his father had been one, had raised him to be too. Hanzo remained unimpressed.

They debated, all of them, although Morrison spoke most, interrupted frequently by Jesse’s own gruff responses. Hanzo looked back at the bruises on Jesse’s knuckles more than once. Morrison commanded — and Winston asked — Dr. Ziegler to pull up old medical records, anything that might explain how a man could turn to smoke, could survive again and again and again.

Jesse advocated for intel from inside Talon itself, some opportunity to “save” Reyes and this Amélie both, against Morrison’s pragmatic insistence that their threat must be neutralized. Hanzo did not know; he had no attachment to the argument, but the two operatives together had already killed so many. Their lives couldn’t outweigh those they had killed. And yet, Hanzo looked at Jesse, a man he knew had spent his life killing yet still believed in redemption, and he questioned Morrison’s certainty.

Haltingly, Winston suggested a third way: imprisonment, some way to question them or perhaps heal them. Morrison seemed willing to consider it, but Jesse remained uneasy. Lúcio, as well, tensed by Hanzo’s side. He had been a freedom fighter; perhaps he thought death was more honorable than a cell. Dr. Ziegler cautiously suggested it was a possibility, but that the ethics of any experimentation, trying to undo the brainwashing Amélie Lacroix and perhaps Gabriel Reyes had undergone were difficult to untangle, murky even under the best circumstances. Mei agreed quietly, and Winston nodded.

“Death or confinement. It’s all we can do,” Morrison said, as if it were finalized.

Jesse snapped, “We ain’t done brainstormin’ yet. You’re askin’ us to kill or imprison one of our own without knowin’ anything. It’s not right.”

Morrison sneered back at him. “We do what has to be done. You aren’t the only one who cared, McCree. He isn’t ‘one of our own’ any more. He changed. You’d know that if you’d been there.” Jesse tensed, ready to snap back at him. The history here was beyond what Hanzo could put together, but he was tired of watching them fight.

“How?” Hanzo asked. It was the first he had spoken, and everyone’s eyes turned to him. He squared his shoulders, and he looked at Morrison, but he could feel Jesse’s gaze boring into him. “How does one imprison a man who turns to smoke? What walls will hold him?”

Morrison stared hard at him. “We have access to tranquilizers.”

Hanzo raised an eyebrow. “You speak of him as if he’s a beast. He must be caged or put down or tranquilized indefinitely. I will not hesitate to kill a person who threatens the team or innocent people,” he said, looking briefly at Jesse, whose eyes were sharp on him, “but I will recognize he is a person. I will not cage him.”

“You’ll do as we decide,” Morrison ordered.

We are undecided,” Hanzo said coolly, and Morrison set his jaw. “We are peacekeepers, but we are neither military nor police.”

Dr. Ziegler looked at Hanzo thoughtfully, as if meeting him for the first time. “Overwatch was stripped of that authority, with good reason.”

“Because of the things Blackwatch did under Gabe.” Morrison shot a quick glare at Jesse, then at Genji, and Hanzo had to school himself to keep from lashing out.

“Because of the things you let them do. Besides, Blackwatch did things like this.” Morrison opened his mouth to speak, but Hanzo kept talking. “Let us assume you capture him. How long will we detain him? Where will we keep him? Will we perform experiments on an unwilling subject?” The scientists in the room shifted uncomfortably, as did several others. “Will we interrogate him about Talon? How far will these interrogations go? What if—”

“I won’t be lectured on ethics by a goddamn yakuza,” Morrison snapped.

“So you admit I have some expertise in these matters,” Hanzo said, coolly in defiance of the way his pulse spiked.

“I believe my brother means: at least yakuza know they are yakuza,” Genji said mildly. Morrison set his jaw again, and Hanzo could imagine the way his teeth ground together.

“Man, Hanzo’s asking about human rights abuses,” Lúcio chimed in, bouncing with nervous energy next to him. “I’m with him. We’re talking about indefinite detention, and that’s fucked up even when legal authorities do it.” The others looked around at each other; Lena’s large eyes were enormous now.

“These are the things Overwatch was built to defend against,” she added. “They won’t repeal the Petras Act if we do things like this.”

Lúcio nodded vigorously next to him, and Hanzo said, “We should either be better, or admit we are the same as any yakuza, the same as Talon.”

“You have no authority here,” Morrison growled.

“Even our yakuza father listened to counsel,” Hanzo finally snapped. “And whatever authority you had died when Overwatch was disbanded. There is no UN to construct the hierarchy this time. Power comes only from our allegiance, and you do not have mine.” He raised a sharp eyebrow at Morrison, who looked as if he were going to speak again. Hanzo refused to allow it. “Winston has led us admirably, and I would follow any of the others here before I will follow a despot.”

The silence when he finished was palpable. Then the room erupted into chaos. It seemed, in his effort to provoke Jack, to state his piece, he had raised questions instead about who Overwatch wanted to be. It had been loosely defined before, operated off some vague replication of its former goals, but now the debate grew hot and difficult to withstand. Nothing was decided, nothing was resolved, and most of them were red in the face, sweating, from nerves or anger or sitting trapped in the room for so long.

It was Torbjörn, who so typically said little, who finally shouted at everyone to be silent. “We need a break, and I need a drink,” he snapped.

In the brief quiet that followed, Winston cleared his throat. “We should reconvene when we are less heated. I will schedule another meeting for another day.”

They were dismissed, and Jesse was the first to stand. He moved immediately to the door, and Hanzo followed. Jesse peered at him from over his shoulder. “I need a smoke. You comin’?”

It seemed whatever anger Jesse had harbored, it was set aside for now; they had been uneasy allies in the room. “Yes,” he said. “I need one too.” Jesse snorted, but he nodded.

Genji appeared at Hanzo’s side, bumped his shoulder gently and said nothing. With him came Zenyatta. And then Hana followed, and Lúcio, all trailing along the corridors in a group. Jesse shook his head. “I don’t have enough smokes for all you bums,” he said.

Hana laughed. “As if, old man.”

Together they all went out to the cliffs, sat in the shade of the satellite array. Genji pulled off his faceplate and sighed, shook his head as if the breeze could clear away the tension. Perhaps it could.

Hana sidled up to Hanzo, though she waved her hand in front of her face at the smoke. “I told everyone you were secretly a softy,” she said, teasing as always. “Maybe now they’ll believe me.”

“Yeah, man,” Lúcio laughed. “You’re like one step away from advocating for radical participatory democracy, like fully non-hierarchical shit.”

Hanzo huffed. “Hardly.”

Lúcio shrugged it off, unfazed. “Eh, we’ll get you there. I’ve got some great e-books on anarcho-syndicalism that I know you’ll love.”

“I absolutely will not,” Hanzo said, but he could feel the smile threatening to break out, and Lúcio saw it and laughed again.

Fareeha and Lena appeared, carrying between them a massive cooler they revealed to be full of soda and beer. Jesse yelped in surprised joy as Fareeha tossed him a full pack of his cigarillos. “You know me so well!”

“Yes, you’re a total degenerate, and I love you for it,” Fareeha said. She handed him a beer and ruffled his hair, then dropped next to him on the ground.

Jesse declared that the debate was over, and so was any serious conversation. They all agreed, and they lounged together with their beer and their soda, laughing and swapping stories. Lena produced a cigarette that smelled suspiciously unlike Jesse’s, and Hanzo snorted, watched her share with Lúcio, watched Hana try it once and then pull a face, coughing and shaking her head.

Fareeha rolled her eyes, called them all degenerates. Jesse elbowed her and egged her on until she stole it from Lena and handed it to him to finish. When Lena protested, Jesse just laughed. “I got seniority, punk!” His voice sounded like he was trying to mimic Morrison.

Hanzo wondered if this is what it had been like before, or if it was only a product of their current isolation. He did not mind it though; it had been a very, very long time since he had felt relaxed among so many people, was perhaps the first time since he had arrived that he felt relaxed with Jesse around.

Genji squatted by his side, and he reached out a hand, touched Hanzo’s forearm gently, as he had often done so long ago. His fingers were cool, but Hanzo found he didn’t mind. “You did well today,” Genji said very quietly. Hanzo didn’t have an answer, but Genji didn’t seem to expect one. Instead he raised his voice. “Hanzo would have been great in Blackwatch. Do you know what our favorite hobby was?” He gestured between himself and Jesse. “Pissing off Jack Morrison.” He mimed raising a drink, and the others followed suit, cheered to pissing off Jack Morrison. Zenyatta could not drink, but he spun several of his orbs in a glowing circle, and his faceplate seemed to suggest a smile. Hanzo shook his head, but he drank to it.

Hanzo couldn’t recall whose idea it had been, but they ended up on the beach, some stumbling far more than others. Hana, Genji and Zenyatta at least seemed capable of keeping the rest of them in line, but none of them stopped Lena from starting a fire in an old, sand-covered stone circle, another remnant from someone else’s time here.

He sat beside his brother, and he watched the fire, let its heat and the alcohol and the sound of others’ laughter wash over him. Fareeha called Jesse another name, and Hanzo catalogued all the things he’d heard Jesse called: degenerate, insolent, scoundrel, impudent, idiot, ingrate. He’d called him a pervert once, in that memory that boiled up today. As if summoned by Hanzo’s thoughts, Jesse swam into view, face flushed but too serious. Hanzo tensed a little, waiting. Surely Jesse was not here to disrupt today’s truce.

“Thank you,” Jesse said instead. “For tryin’ to talk sense in there.”

“I didn’t do it for you,” Hanzo said.

“I know. That’s… better, actually.” Jesse ran a hand through his hair, seemed to try to shake something loose. “And thank you for tellin’ me, before.”

Hanzo hummed. “You were not grateful then.”

“Nah, I was a jerk. Didn’t wanna hear it,” Jesse said with a shrug. “I’m sure you’re familiar with that problem.” It was not an accusation; it was only a statement of fact, a little wry in delivery, and Hanzo found he couldn’t argue.

“I can’t promise I won’t kill him,” Hanzo said instead, and Jesse flinched but he nodded.

“Yeah, I know. Don’t much wanna talk about that right now.” Jesse looked at him until Hanzo nodded back, head feeling full and clouded. “I’m sorry for the stuff before that too. It’s hard for me to figure which parts were my fault or yours but… I get where you were comin’ from, and you weren’t all wrong.”

“Okay,” Hanzo said.

Jesse snorted. “That’s all?”

“I was angry, with good reason,” he said firmly, then he sighed, felt the warmth of the alcohol in his belly. “But perhaps I could have heard you out earlier, and I would not have been so angry. Perhaps I could have been more… tactful, as well.”

Jesse shook his head at that, even smirked a little. “Guess I shouldn’t expect an assassin not to go for the throat.”

“You still hid things, even after you promised to tell the truth,” Hanzo said, in denial that he could possibly sound sullen.

“How d’you figure?”

“You told Genji you were angry with me, but you didn’t tell me.”

Jesse looked at him, a funny mix of his hard stare and no small amount of amusement. “You gonna blame me for venting when you were bein’ stubborn? Tell me how it woulda worked out if I kept tryin’ to call you on it.”

“Oh,” Hanzo said, and he let out a sound that was not quite a laugh. “I’d prefer you to tell me. Now, that is.”

Jesse stared at him, that same odd stare that made him feel as if he were under study. “You askin’ me to insult you?”

“No, but…” He waved a hand, tried to pull his murky thoughts together. “It is unfair to Genji if he’s the only one to do it.”

“So you just want me to tell you when you’re bein’ an asshole again. I can work with that.” Jesse laughed, hung his head down a little. “Don’t think anyone’s ever thought I’d be a good influence on ‘em.”

“I didn’t say it would influence me,” he said. Jesse snorted at that. “You are hard enough to trust when you don’t hide things.”

Jesse sighed, but he nodded again. “Yeah, you’re a suspicious one.” Hanzo tensed a little, but Jesse smirked. “It did us some good today, though.”

Hanzo looked out at the fire, felt strangely relaxed enough. “What did you want?” he asked. Jesse was silent, and Hanzo huffed. “Before I...” he gestured, looking for the words, “chastised you.”

Jesse laughed, but it was different this time, a hoarse sound. “I don’t think I’m drunk enough for that conversation. Judgin’ by how nice you’re bein’, you might be too drunk for it.”

Hanzo made a skeptical sound, asked, “Nice?”

Jesse’s smile was easier now, less tense. “Nicer, then. It’s relative.” Hanzo snorted and looked at him; Jesse looked back, and he seemed to give in a little. “Alright. Short version: I got no fuckin’ idea what to do with you.”

It wasn’t a good answer, left Hanzo with no sense of real satisfaction. But it was honest at least, and it shook some of the tension loose. He didn’t ask any further questions, only watched the fire and drank his beer. Given everything else that had happened recently, he could let it be enough.

Chapter Text

Hanzo couldn’t focus. He knew his shots were off, weren’t going quite where they were meant to go. Athena assured him his score was at least meeting his average, but he still knew. He watched as the most recent arrow trembled in a practice target, just off center.

He grew frustrated, and it made him aware of the ache in his arms and back, in his hands. “You are fatigued, Agent Hanzo. May I recommend a break?” Athena chimed in, the same as she had every fifteen minutes for the past hour. He deigned to listen to her this time.

The agitation lived on under his skin even as he collected his arrows and packed everything away. He could inspect his equipment again later. He couldn’t quite place the problem, though he thought he could attribute it in some part to the lack of any action over the past week, to the ongoing Reaper question.

Everything on base was fine, in most ways better than it had been. There were still things unspoken with Jesse, but his presence had become tolerable, not something he had to work to ignore. Hanzo at least thought he understood him now, which was more comforting than he liked to admit. Morrison continued to watch him like a hawk, but the man hadn’t really said or done anything in particular. He was a hard man to get a read on, but Hanzo watched him back during meetings, and his careful prying told him Morrison could be reasonable once the anger wore off. As for the others, their relationships had hardly changed at all, except that as a whole they had grown less hesitant to speak to him.

Yet the restlessness remained, and he knew sleep would elude him. After he put his things away, he filled a canteen with tea and took that and sake with him out to the cliffs. He had only been out there at night once, during the storm with Genji, but he hoped it would calm him as it did during the day.

He was a few feet out the door when he realized his mistake. He could smell the smoke that signaled Jesse’s presence, and he saw his head turn to catch Hanzo. Jesse was out in the dark, just a silhouette with the little glow of his cigarillo, but Hanzo stood bathed in the yellow light of the door, surely unmistakeable from the short distance. He may have become bearable, but that didn’t mean they spent time alone. Hanzo thought about the funny, indecisive shuffle he’d heard Jesse perform his first day here, and it took a force of will not to do the same.

“You just gonna stand there?” Jesse called. Hanzo couldn’t see his face, but he sounded amused.

He breathed hard through his nose, and he decided not to be put off. They had made their truce, hadn’t they? He refused to let his hesitation show again, and he moved out into the darkness to sit near Jesse, legs dangling over the cliffside. His eyes adjusted, but between the clouds and the thin sliver of moon, it was still dark. He thought he might prefer it this way.

He took a sip from his tea, unsure whether to trust the sake with his present company. “Do you often come out here?” he finally asked.

Jesse seemed to find something about that funny. “Sometimes,” was all he said though. The ember at the end of his cigarillo lit up bright before a small cloud of smoke blew past Hanzo.

“When you can’t sleep,” Hanzo finished for him. It was only partly a question.

“Yeah,” Jesse admitted, though he clearly didn’t wish to talk about it. Hanzo heard the sound of metal on metal, and he was able to make out Jesse unscrewing the lid to a flask. He took a sip and held it out to Hanzo.

Hanzo took it, despite the gourd at his belt and the canteen of tea, because it seemed like another peace offering. It reminded him of what Genji had said, how he thought they should and could get along. He gave the flask a skeptical sniff first, and Jesse’s laugh told him his appalled recoil was visible even in the darkness. “You drink this?”

“It’s whiskey,” Jesse said, still laughing.

He took a cautious sip, and he immediately regretted it. He coughed, barely managed to choke it down. “It may have briefly flirted with being whiskey long ago.” He coughed again. “I’ve used something like this to clean blood stains.”

Jesse snorted at him. “You can give it back then.”

Hanzo watched him and made himself take another swig, though it made his eyes water to do it. “I’m trying to do you a favor. You will die if you drink it all yourself.”

“Very funny,” Jesse said dryly, then gave an exaggerated sigh. “I try and be nice, and this is what I get.” He tugged at the flask, and Hanzo let him have it back, fingers gone a little limp at the statement. If Jesse noticed, he didn’t say anything, just took a big gulp of the stuff as if to prove it wasn’t terrible. Jesse coughed a little too at the end of it, and Hanzo saw the flash of his teeth, though it was hard to tell if it was a grimace or a smile. “It’s fuckin’ awful though, you’re right.”

Hanzo thought he should smile or offer his sake, but he looked out at the water instead. Jesse seemed to respect the quiet, just shared his whiskey and left him alone, at least until the time came to light another cigarillo. Wordlessly, he offered one to Hanzo, didn’t seem to think twice about lighting it for him. Hanzo stared at the flame and resolutely not at Jesse, determined to ignore the confused blend of familiarity and anger — however dulled now — it tried to dredge up.

He pulled away on an exhale, and he finally uncapped the sake. He shook it at Jesse, a silent offer. “Sake?” Jesse asked as he took it.


He heard Jesse sniff at it the same way Hanzo had at his so-called whiskey. “Always thought it tasted like polish remover.” He took a drink anyway, a huge gulp from the sound of it. He cleared his throat. “And perfume.”

Hanzo snorted, wondered which of those to pursue. “Polish remover?” he asked.

“Nail polish. My mamá did her nails every Sunday like clockwork, soon as her shift was over, but she had to take off last week’s first. Stank up the whole place for hours.”

Hanzo didn’t know what to say to that. He was reminded uncomfortably that he knew little about Jesse’s past, but that Jesse certainly knew about his own family. He took the gourd back, uncertain again. He wondered if he should leave. Instead he took a drink, and he smirked a little. “And you drank it?” he asked.

“The sake?”

“The nail polish remover.”

Jesse snorted. “No.”

“Hm,” Hanzo said. “Did you drink her perfume?”

“Seriously? No.”

“Then something else must explain it.”

Jesse sighed, but he took the bait. “Explain what?”

“How you got so foolish.”

Jesse said nothing for a moment, then he laughed a little, quietly as if to himself. “Are you tryin’ to tease me?”

Hanzo let himself smile then. “It took you some time.”

“To my credit it didn’t make much sense. You know I’m honor bound to tell ya when you’re bein’ a dick now, right?” Jesse asked, but there wasn’t any bite to it.

“I’ll regret asking you to speak your mind if you reveal it to be empty,” he said, and he risked a glance at Jesse. It was hard to say in the darkness, but the light of his cigarillo suggested he might be smiling.

“Just like that. That’s a dick thing to say.” Jesse was smiling though. Hanzo could see his teeth, could hear it in his voice too.

“Don’t push your luck. I can still shove you off the ledge.”

Jesse laughed outright then. “Nah, you ain’t killed me yet.” Hanzo tried to laugh, but he could feel it tangling up with everything else again. He could feel Jesse’s eyes on him, and the darkness felt like more hindrance than protection. He had thought he understood Jesse better now, but he couldn’t tell if he said these things on purpose or if they just slipped out for Hanzo to make a mess of in his own head. Regardless, Jesse seemed to sense it and steered them back to safer things. “The sake’s good though. Better than my whiskey.”

“We could spend all night naming things better than that swill.” Jesse laughed again, easier now, and they drank together in an almost comfortable quiet. Hanzo wondered if Jesse still felt the things hanging overhead, if his easygoing manner was something he had to work at like Hanzo, or if he had truly moved past it. Hanzo thought about Jesse’s venting to Genji, about the drinks they shared and the bottles in Jesse’s trashcan, and he thought it might be the former. He took a quick breath, then he said, “You do not owe me.”

Jesse grunted. “What’s that?”

“Before, you said you thought you owed me.” He hoped Jesse remembered; he didn’t care to risk saying it aloud again.

“Oh,” was all Jesse said, and he cleared his throat. “Yeah, guess I did say that.”

Hanzo grit his teeth at it. “Why would you?”

He heard Jesse inhale. “I thought.” He cleared his throat again. “Spent a long time thinkin’ it was partly my fault, what… happened between you and Genji.”

“You mean what I did to Genji.”

“Yeah,” Jesse said.

“That isn’t your place. You do not get to take credit for my mistakes.”

“Yeah, I know. You did it. That’s real clear.” Hanzo felt his cheeks go hot at the edge in Jesse’s voice, anger and shame at once, but Jesse lit up again, handed him one and lit another for himself. “But I thought,” he paused, sucked in air through his teeth as if to brace himself, “I thought if I’d played my cards different, neither of y’all woulda been there for the order to come down.”

He could sense Jesse shifting his weight, wondered from the sound if he was running his hand through his hair again. He was certain he heard the slosh in the flask as Jesse drank again. Jesse’s words irritated him, scratched at an old wound. Jesse had offered twice to take him away, had said in the recordings he’d meant the offer for Genji too. The alcohol tempted him to wonder what he would have done if Jesse had asked a third time. His anger — with himself this time, he could admit — reminded him his answer likely would not have changed.

He cleared his throat too. “No. You do not owe me,” he repeated. “You saved Genji.”

Jesse made a funny sound that was almost a laugh. “I wasn’t there.”

“The number you gave saved Genji, then.”

“You’re too damn smart to think I left it hopin’ that’s how it’d get used,” Jesse said, strangely angry sounding.

“It doesn’t matter why, only that it saved him,” Hanzo said firmly. “And you were his friend, after. When he needed one.” Hanzo took a generous gulp of his sake, followed it with a drag off the cigarillo. “There is no debt. Your slate is clean,” he said, and he willed himself to mean it. The former was true, but he was less certain about the latter.

Jesse made a thoughtful sound, seemed less tense now. Hanzo considered asking whether Jesse felt Hanzo owed him, but he wasn’t sure which answer would be worse, so he kept it to himself. “Alright,” Jesse said, well after Hanzo had stopped expecting a response. “Listen, I came out here to drink in peace. You can stay if you want, but no more of that shit.”

“What ‘shit’?”

“That whole… maudlin, bringin’ up things I said before shit. ‘S not how I wanted to spend my night.”

Hanzo swallowed, but he nodded, then realized Jesse might not be able to see him. “Okay.”

“Good.” Jesse shifted his weight. “Tell me a joke.”

“What?” He tried to look at Jesse, but the shadows on his face gave him no clues.

“A joke. Y’know, one of those things with the setup and the punchline?” Hanzo snorted, and he saw Jesse’s teeth again. “You can be kinda funny when you’re not broodin’ or workin’ so hard to be an asshole. Tell me a joke,” he said again.

Hanzo didn’t know any jokes, not any that would translate well anyway. But he did have stories, so he picked a reasonably safe one from his time spent as an assassin, the time he’d thought he was found out by a mark, only to realize the man was so high he’d mistaken Hanzo for a delivery man.

“What’d he think you were deliverin’?” Jesse asked.

“I didn’t think to ask before I cut his throat,” Hanzo said with a shrug, wondering if the story was less funny than he’d thought. Jesse laughed anyway, and whether at him or the story didn’t seem to matter.

The hangover the next day was not what Hanzo would consider worth it, but he could admit the evening had been mostly pleasant. It had done something for the restlessness, lessened the sense that something was waiting to accost him, at least as far as Jesse was concerned.

When he joined Genji, a few minutes late for their meditation, Genji said nothing about his appearance, though Hanzo thought it had to be obvious. He said nothing over breakfast either, just watched Hanzo pick at his bowl of rice. It didn’t escape his notice that he was being watched though.

Yes?” he finally asked.

You have been drinking.” Genji said.

Hanzo grunted. “Last night.


Hanzo wasn’t sure where the question was leading, and it wormed under his skin. “Why?

Genji made a soft noise, but he met Hanzo’s stare with a determined one of his own. “Because I worry.” He said it like it should have been obvious.

I was not alone.

Genji seemed to relax somewhat at that. “But you do drink alone sometimes?

Hanzo shifted uncomfortably. “Yes.”

Genji hummed but said nothing else. He didn’t have to. Hanzo was uncomfortably reminded of the way he himself had noticed Jesse’s habit.

But it lingered, and so did Genji’s insistence that they could get along, so the next time Hanzo found himself sleepless with the urge to drink, he also found himself knocking at Jesse’s door. “My brother says I should not drink alone,” he said instead of a greeting. He didn’t really believe this was what Genji had meant, but he could only suffer so many changes at once.

Jesse seemed amused, if a little cautious, but he followed Hanzo out to the cliffs and told him a story about how Jack Morrison had interrupted one of Jesse’s missions personally to drag him back to Geneva just because Jesse had pissed off a diplomat. Jesse seemed to think it showed clearly that Morrison was an asshole; Hanzo thought it made him more human, showed a man with some prudence and discipline. Perhaps he had even saved Jesse from something, some public embarrassment or something much worse. After a moment’s hesitation, he said as much.

Jesse sighed a little. “Yeah, he’s an asshole, but he’s not one of the bad guys.” Haltingly, like he was testing something, Jesse told him another story, this one about Reyes. The sky was clear this time, and Hanzo could see the way Jesse watched him carefully for a reaction. Hanzo kept his face neutral, and he listened while Jesse told him how he’d been recruited to Blackwatch: from a raid on Jesse’s old gang.

“Shot a hole in five agents myself,” Jesse admitted. “He dragged me into interrogation and I thought he was gonna beat the tar outta me, but instead he just looked at me. It’s been twenty years and I still dunno what he saw,” Jesse laughed.

“You were young,” Hanzo said. “Perhaps that was enough.”

Jesse shrugged. “I could pass for older. Usually took advantage of it for booze,” he said with another laugh. “He made some agent wash the dirt and blood offa my face before he talked to me though, so you might be right. Either way, he gave me the choice: get charged as an adult for all my crimes or sign on with him. Wasn’t real smart back then, but the choice was pretty plain.”

Hanzo wondered to himself whether it was only Jesse’s age, or if Reyes had seen Jesse’s strange skill. He had told Hanzo long ago that he’d always known how to use it, but that he’d had a mentor who made him a better shot. He’d hit five trained agents even before that training. If Hanzo were Reyes, he would have recruited him too, regardless of age. Reyes had also offered Jesse one prison over another, coerced him into an undisclosed sentence in favor of the obvious one, and he’d used it to send Jesse to risk his life. Jesse didn’t seem to consider it that way, so Hanzo kept his thoughts to himself. Jesse was still watching for his reaction, like he was weighing something. “Do you regret the choice?” Hanzo asked.

Jesse laughed a little. “I resented it for a while, made myself a real pain in his ass. But no, not now.”

“Why tell me this?” he finally asked. It felt too heavy a question, so he added, “I thought you were not interested in this ‘maudlin shit’.”

Jesse hummed to himself, a little smirk lifting the corner of his mouth. “So you know who it is you’re talkin’ about, why it pissed me off.”

“He was your mentor,” Hanzo said, still remembering that old conversation, the vague sketch Jesse had given now slowly filling in. He snorted a little, wondering just how much truth Jesse had given up back then. He truly had been a terrible spy.

“Yeah,” Jesse said in the here and now. “He was. And a… a good man, however it looks where you’re standin’. Made some tough calls, did a lotta the shit nobody wants to think about, but he wanted peace just like the rest of ’em. And he dragged my ass outta the gutter and made somethin’ more outta me than I woulda been.”

“A good man,” Hanzo repeated, trying to take it seriously.

“Or close enough to,” Jesse said with another shrug. “Maybe I’m not the best judge.”

Hanzo let it hang for a moment, unsure. “What changed?” Jesse looked confused. “You didn’t want to believe me, but you did in the meeting.”

“Oh,” Jesse said, even laughed a little. “Fareeha mighta gave me a real stern lecture ’bout not shootin’ the messenger.” Hanzo smirked to himself a little, having solved the mystery of how at least one of the people in the meeting had already known. “And I did watch the security tape. You were right about the guns.” Jesse looked at him hard again, and Hanzo got that same sense of being weighed and measured. It seemed as though he would say more but then thought better of it.

Hanzo didn’t press, and after some time Jesse told him more stories about Reyes, painted him in far more vivid colors than Genji had. Hanzo still had his doubts, but he listened, assuming this was what had brought Jesse to agree to drink in the first place.

For once, it hadn’t occurred to him to assume Jesse might have had an ulterior motive, so of course this time he did.

Two nights after his third drunken conversation with Jesse, Hanzo sat with Hana, politely attempting to maintain interest in the pictures she was showing him. Some were funny, and others even well composed, but he was overwhelmed by the sheer quantity. She paused on one of him and made a pleased sound. “Oh look, you don’t look awful in this one.”

“How kind of you,” he said with a little smile. Hana thought it was funny that he seemed almost incapable of taking a flattering picture. He looked at this one, a profile shot of him in the sunlight, one finger pressed absently to his lip. His brows were drawn down, which was not unusual in pictures, but he looked particularly thoughtful. Confused, perhaps. Lost, he decided, and it made him feel strangely hot and cold at once. “What is this from?” he asked, working to keep his voice steady.

“That day we went shopping,” Hana said, and he felt the same rush of icy hot panic, felt exposed somehow. He remembered now when she had taken it; he had been watching and eavesdropping on the little family.

He cleared his throat and handed Hana’s phone back to her. “It is a nice picture,” he said, and he excused himself from the table.

Genji found him cleaning his bowl in the kitchen, scrubbing perhaps more thoroughly than it required. If he noticed, he didn’t say anything about it. He had the faceplate on anyway; together with his silence, he was nearly impossible to read.

Still, Hanzo understood the signal that he should join him. He thought about refusing, but his restlessness wasn’t going to go away. He let Genji lead him out of the kitchen and down the hall. “I would like your help with something,” Genji said.

Of course. Whatever you need,” Hanzo answered. He was distracted a little by the strange sensation Hana’s photo had brought up, but he would not deny Genji.

You haven’t heard it yet,” Genji said, sounding annoyed with him.

That doesn’t matter.” Genji started to say something, and Hanzo only gave him a look. “It doesn’t.

We will see if that sticks. You may change your mind, but you shouldn’t tell anyone.” He led Hanzo down one of the darkened, unused corridors, only the low emergency lights on the floors and the glow of Genji’s suit to show the way. Despite the dim lighting, there were footprints visible in the dust; someone had been here already, and recently.

He could smell it again before he got any other clue as to what to expect: fragrant, spicy smoke, the kind that told him Jesse was nearby. Genji punched in a code and opened a door, and there Jesse sat, leaned back in a chair with his feet propped on a desk. Fareeha cut off mid-sentence to look at them, then she seemed to relax.

It was just the four of them, alone in this strange office, and as the door shut behind him Hanzo felt he really would like to leave. Then Fareeha offered him a beer from where she sat cross-legged on the desk, a tentative smile on her face.

“What is this?” Hanzo asked, immediately suspicious. Fareeha looked at Jesse, who looked at Genji, who only shrugged.

Jesse took his feet off the desk and sat upright in the chair, stared straight at Hanzo. “Welcome to the unofficial Reaper investigation unit,” he said, trying on a grin.

“You are not serious.” Beside him, Genji laughed a little, as if he’d expected Hanzo’s reaction.

“As a heart attack,” Jesse said. He glanced at Fareeha, then he looked at Hanzo and Genji both. “Listen, we know Winston’s gonna hem and haw, and Jack’s gonna try and turn it into a dick-measurin’ contest, and neither of ’em are gonna like my ideas.”

“For the record, I still don’t like most of your ideas,” Fareeha said, and Jesse just snorted.

“What are they?” Hanzo asked. Genji had no questions, it seemed, but given the assuredness with which he’d led Hanzo here, perhaps he already knew.

“Long term ain’t real clear yet. We’ll figure it out. I expect it might require a pretty unique skill set though.” Hanzo looked at Genji, who still seemed perfectly at ease with this; he wasn’t entirely sure about Fareeha, but it was easy enough to put together what skills he had in common with Genji and Jesse, what skills Genji and Hanzo might possess that Jesse did not. Stealth in particular came to mind.

Hanzo wasn’t sure he was interested, but Genji was, had posed it as if Genji himself was the one who needed help. Hanzo didn’t know whether to find that irritating or not. So he sat in a faded, dusty office chair, and he let Jesse explain that he was going to investigate Reyes and Talon with or without approval. After Hanzo pressed, it seemed Fareeha was not there to go on any — potential, future — unauthorized missions. She was their self-appointed oversight, someone who cared enough about Gabriel Reyes to share some of Jesse’s suspicions, and who cared enough about the rules to steer them back on course if needed. Or to steer Jesse anyway; Hanzo wasn’t entirely certain how she was supposed to influence him or Genji beyond potentially exposing them to the rest of Overwatch. Whatever else Jesse had learned from Blackwatch, the point about oversight in particular seemed important to him.

“I’m not askin’ anybody to do shit they can’t stomach. Won’t even come to that, prob’ly. Right now I just need help diggin’ through all the files,” Jesse said. “Maybe from a couple someones who know how shady types think,” he added with a smirk.

Genji snorted. “You didn’t mention playing secretary.”

“I was thinkin’ detective, but okay,” Jesse said with an easy smile.

“Files?” Hanzo huffed, trying to get them back on topic. “What files?”

Jesse’s face went much more serious as he flipped the monitor on the desk around to show Hanzo. There were more folders visible than he could count, and no telling what they contained. Someone, and Jesse suspected Reyes himself, had left Jesse with access to the entirety of Blackwatch’s classified history.

Chapter Text

Hanzo was caught, and he could see that both Genji and Jesse saw it. He wanted to protest; so much of this was a bad idea. But the screen full of files called to him, another puzzle to solve, things to know

Still, someone had to be the voice of reason. “How did you get these files?”

“They were waitin’ for me when I logged in after the Recall.” Jesse looked irritated, like Hanzo was missing something obvious. “He left ’em to me.”

“We think it may have been a failsafe in the event of Gabe’s death,” Fareeha clarified.

“You think he kept that in place even after you left him?” Hanzo asked, and Jesse went red, didn’t answer immediately. Hanzo grunted in the face of everyone’s silence. “Did neither of you bother to ask this?” he asked, glancing between Genji and Fareeha. Genji just vented out air, and Hanzo’s mouth twisted a little. “So you think this is your inheritance?” he asked Jesse, fighting to keep the disdain from his voice. “Why?”

“Gabe practically raised me. I worked under him for a decade, longest signed member of Blackwatch after Gabe himself. Why not?”

“Because you abandoned your post. Because this was about chain of command, not favoritism. Because it wasn’t him at all, but someone else. You forget Blackwatch had leaks before.” He raised an eyebrow at Jesse, and he fought down the strange tangle of feeling that surged up when he brought up the past. “Those photos came from someone close to you. Why not Reyes?”

Jesse snorted. “You really believe that?”

“It doesn’t matter what I believe. What matters is that we ask every question, even the ones you don’t like. Especially those.”

Jesse tensed, and Fareeha took a particularly noisy sip of her beer, slurping at the edge of the can. Aside from being a bit tasteless, it seemed to take the edge off Jesse’s reaction, because his shoulders relaxed and he huffed out a laugh. “You’re still suspicious?” Fareeha asked.

Yes,” Hanzo answered without hesitation, and Fareeha smiled. “You can’t approach this looking only to exonerate him. You may overlook things.”

“See? This is why you should be here,” Fareeha said.

It was frustrating, but they had him intrigued. It was a puzzle itching to be solved, and Genji was already on board. He pushed him on it, later when they were alone, but Genji had few reasons not to go through with it, trusted Jesse to an unreasonable degree and insisted they were not betraying their teammates but protecting them, doing something vital. Hanzo knew, whatever his own reservations, he wouldn’t abandon the project so long as Genji remained attached.

They met in the same room; Jesse had used his credentials to bar Athena from peeking in on these activities, but none of them wished to learn how far this particular authority stretched. They drank occasionally, and they took turns looking through the files until one or another person’s eyes began to strain. They argued regularly. Sometimes Fareeha or Genji joined the arguments, but it was mostly Hanzo arguing with Jesse, pressing him on some point or another like:

“What if none of these personnel are in Talon? Their tactics could be only Reyes,” and “Why would he lie to me about Genji when he came to recruit?” and “What if he left these, but it is still a trap? He may want you in Talon.” Fareeha looked uneasy at this one, and even Jesse paused, standing at the corner of the desk. “Talon collects or creates oddities,” he pressed.

Some of the tension went out of Jesse. “You callin’ me odd?”

Hanzo didn’t laugh, could think of nothing but the echoes of the word demon. “Reyes wanted, Talon still wants, the dragons. I do not see why they wouldn’t want your talent as well,” he said, after the silence had gone on too long.

All three of them were staring at him. Another silence stretched uncomfortably thin. Finally Jesse said, “Odd and talented? You sure know how to backhand a compliment.” Fareeha slapped him with a stack of papers, and the whole thing devolved from there.

They found the medical files quickly enough, but they were a useless mess. What they could understand about “rapid cellular regrowth” made little sense to any of them, and much of the later files were written in a strange language none of them knew. “Gaelic,” Genji guessed, and Jesse visibly recoiled.

“Prob’ly right. Fuck me.” He and Genji exchanged a loaded look.

Fareeha rolled her eyes. “Care to explain to the rest of the class?” she asked. Jesse and Genji took turns explaining Dr. O’Deorain, a brilliant scientist and, it seemed, a particularly terrifying physician appointed to Blackwatch. Genji had been especially concerned by her fascination with him, but Jesse was put off as well. It seemed she had fallen into some disrepute after advocating for less than ethical practices, and neither of them were thrilled to discover she may have experimented on Reyes. Fareeha sighed. “These are the notes Angela needs.”

“If she can read ’em,” Jesse huffed.

“What, is this not one of the dozens of languages you know?” Hanzo asked.

Jesse smirked at him. “Not this one. Guess Athena can translate though.”

“But this means revealing that we have them,” Genji said. “And perhaps overburdening Angela.”

“It’s her job,” Fareeha said. “But we’ll have to ensure she actually sleeps,” she tacked on wryly.

“She’ll want to know where we got them,” Genji said.

Fareeha looked thoughtful. She turned to Jesse. “That is on you to handle,” she told him firmly. Jesse looked ready to protest, but she cut him off. “You wanted to do this, you get to explain it. Besides, you might be able to charm her into keeping your secrets.”

Jesse snorted at that, but he didn’t disagree.

Hanzo went nightly, except when Hana pressured him into a movie night or video games. He rebuilt his routine around the investigation, and he only ever drank while he worked on them. Genji seemed pleased enough by this development, though he did not show up with the same frequency as Hanzo, even cautioned him that he should take more breaks. It was not a point of tension exactly, but Genji seemed to worry unnecessarily.

This night, Genji had put his foot down, refused to accompany Hanzo. “You should slow down,” he insisted.

Jesse has not slowed down. It’s important.

Then go work with him.”

Hanzo grew irritable, and Genji seemed to sense it and find it amusing. “Fareeha will not be there either.

All the more reason for me to stay away,” Genji said, still smiling his funny smile.

I don’t know what that means,” Hanzo said.

Of course you don’t.

He wouldn’t be persuaded though, and Hanzo was summarily dismissed. He went back inside and to their little office. He was earlier than usual, even with Genji’s resistance, and he entered alone.

He didn’t remain that way for long. Jesse found him searching the personnel files, looking for any pattern at all. “Thought I’d be all alone tonight,” Jesse said.

Hanzo just sighed and put out a hand. “I would like to smoke,” he said, and Jesse seemed amused as he handed over a cigarillo.

Jesse offered his flask too, and he seemed amused again at the face Hanzo made as he shook his head to deny it. “What’s got into you?”

“My brother is being a pain,” he said. He offered nothing further. Jesse did not seem to mind. He rounded the desk to stare over Hanzo’s shoulder. “I’ve told you it is difficult to concentrate when you do that,” he grumbled, and if he didn’t deliberately blow smoke in Jesse’s face, he didn’t apologize for it either.

Jesse only laughed quietly and waved the smoke away, but he put some distance between them, leaned back on the wall behind him so he could continue to watch. “Ain’t seen a lotta these faces before,” he mused aloud.

“They seem to have been recruited after your tenure,” Hanzo said. He scrolled through several of them, and he paused on a photo of a woman. She was blonde, with a scar running down her cheek. Had she still been alive, she would have been 47. “Jesse,” he said. “She was in Tokyo, in my apartment. When we were attacked.”

“Son of a bitch,” Jesse muttered, and he leaned closer. He was close enough that Hanzo could smell him, smoke and whiskey and clean sweat and the cheap detergent on his clothes. The dragons purred under his skin, and Hanzo told himself it was the woman’s picture, the memory of the attack.

Carefully and with more concentration than it should have required, he updated her status to Deceased, Tokyo, AD 2076. A few files in, they found the others, all five of their assailants accounted for among these newest Blackwatch recruits. Hanzo dutifully changed the status of each and did his best to ignore the way Jesse hovered and the dryness in his throat. He sighed as he went to change the last of them; it was the man Jesse had wrestled with, and he was already marked dead.

“You know what this means,” Hanzo said, though he had to clear his throat to do it.

Jesse glanced down at him, still far too close. “What’s that?” he asked in his low voice, and the dragons purred again.

“We cannot trust any of the statuses we haven’t marked ourselves,” Hanzo grit out, and Jesse groaned, flung himself away to pace about the room. “We have to start over with the personnel.”

“You are safe here. As safe as you can be.” Hanzo grunted and stared at the clock on the wall. “Do you believe that?” Dr. Kassad stared at him, dark eyes watching. Hanzo said nothing.

Hanzo wondered how thorough Winston’s screening had been. The doctor had not come up in any of their searches through old Blackwatch files, at least, and his careful prying had revealed nothing but a pristine record and a brief stint acting as a military psychiatrist. He had met Overwatch agents back then, but he wasn’t one of them. He was a good choice, and even Genji could not be persuaded to be suspicious of him.

There was no reason to think he was a poor choice, Hanzo thought, but his prying was not easy to navigate. Winston had made them all sit with the doctor; thanks to Hanzo’s request, he’d gotten it into his head that nobody could be declared mission ready without it. The doctor hadn’t threatened him with as much, but Hanzo knew he would be stuck on base if he didn’t speak.

He watched Dr. Kassad glance at the clock too, and he knew he probably was not supposed to have seen. “No,” he finally answered. “It has been infiltrated before.”

Dr. Kassad only nodded. Hanzo hated the way he looked at him. It reminded him of Jesse’s stare sometimes, the one that made him feel as though he were some animal under observation. This man, though, had every reason to observe. It was worse in some ways, better in others. “That is a reasonable answer,” he assured, and Hanzo grit his teeth. “But you have teammates here to help.” Hanzo grunted again at that. “Do you feel safe with your teammates?”

“I suppose,” Hanzo answered, though the question seemed to carry too many connotations for him to be certain. “I don’t believe they wish me harm.”

“Do you trust them?”

Hanzo didn’t know if it was the same question reworded, or if it was a different question entirely. He looked at the clock again. “I trust my brother,” he said, and he knew even that wasn’t as true as he’d like it to be.

“Let’s start with that,” Dr. Kassad said brightly, and Hanzo clenched his jaw.

He survived it, speaking quickly and brusquely through gritted teeth. Dr. Kassad was kind enough, and seemed to have an almost inhuman amount of patience, but Hanzo was left with the distinct impression that he had drained the last of the doctor’s reserves of it. He still went to deal with the files, the same as always, and none of the others commented on his foul mood.

Despite his recalcitrance, Dr. Kassad did declare him capable of missions, on the condition that he return once per week. Winston insisted; more importantly, Genji insisted. 

But he was good for missions, and he was assigned another out in Ireland, felt his skin crawling with the reminder of the as-yet-unsolved medical files. He shot an agent down, and he descended from his perch. His rooftop advantage was gone without enemies in sight.

“All clear,” he said into his comm.

Can you get eyes on McCree?” Lena chirped in his ear. “He's gone offline.”

Hanzo followed the sounds of gunfire, skirted parallel to where he knew the rest of the team was. The sounds reverberated off the buildings, made the source hard to track, but he felt when it happened: the world grew dry and hot in the distance. He had only ever been close to it; he never realized it had a source that could be tracked. The dragons surged inside of him, and he followed the sensation of heat.

Hanzo found Jesse with his back against a wall, standing over another dead body. He swayed a little, and when he glanced up he had the red glint in his eye. It stopped Hanzo in his tracks, simultaneously pinned him to the spot and transported him back a decade and more. The dragons curled under his skin. Then Jesse stumbled, and Hanzo moved without thinking, darted forward to brace him before he could fall. Closer now and fighting the shock, he could see the blood matted in the tangle of Jesse’s hair, could make out the way his prosthetic arm moved jerkily. He grabbed Jesse around the waist, throat dry and the dragons rumbling, and he dragged him stumbling into the nearest building. The door was locked, but its windows had been shot out in the firefight.

Hanzo had a clumsy moment trying to prop up Jesse’s weight and get the door open at once. Inside the pub, he dragged Jesse down behind the bar. “I have found Agent McCree. He needs a medic. Pinging our location.”

Are you mobile?” Lena asked.

“I’m not sure.” He scouted out the area, looking for entryways and listening for any living enemies.

He heard chatter on the other end before she came through again. “Sit tight, we’ll be in touch.

Hanzo came back to Jesse, now that he was satisfied the space was truly clear and reasonably defensible. He took stock of their weapons: he only had three arrows left, but Jesse’s gun was full and he still had ammunition. Hanzo eyed Jesse’s arm; the metal hand was clenched into a fist, fingers twitching reflexively. It couldn’t have been intentional. It was inconvenient, but it didn’t seem to be the most pressing problem.

He eyed the matted blood in Jesse’s hair, took in the dazed look on his face. “Are you dizzy?” he asked.

“No. A little…” Jesse made a frustrated sound. “It’s Deadeye, nothin’ else.”

Hanzo didn’t answer that, but he was unconvinced. “I’m going to check your head. Tell me what happened.”

“Not sure,” Jesse said, then hissed a little as Hanzo’s fingers prodded around the wound, pushed his hair carefully aside to examine it. The cut was shallow, a small thing compared to the amount of blood. “Got me from behind. Could you— are you done?” Jesse asked, voice tight like Hanzo’s hands hurt more than he would admit.

“It is still bleeding.” Pressure might stop that, but nothing either of them wore was remotely clean. He checked around the back of the bar until he found a stash of reasonably clean rags, then pressed one firmly to the cut on Jesse’s head. He held the other side steady too, and he did his level best to ignore how unreasonably soft Jesse’s hair was even when it was filled with dust and sweat, did his best to ignore that he could smell him again.

Jesse sat perfectly still, eyes squeezed shut and breathing hard through his nose. His hand still rested on his gun, but his fingers were slack there. “You should stay alert,” Hanzo told him, and Jesse grunted in reply. “Are you injured elsewhere?”

“Just some scrapes and bruises. And the arm.”

Hanzo glanced down at it. The metal hand was still clenched. “Is there anything I can do about that?”

“Unless you got some tools tucked away in that getup, better to leave it for the experts.” Hanzo nodded, and he peeked under the rag to see if the bleeding had stopped. It seemed it had, so he tugged gently at Jesse’s hair to confirm. Jesse breathed out roughly, muttered to himself in a language Hanzo didn’t know. “What was that? Does it hurt?”

Yes, you’re pokin’ at a head wound.”

Satisfied the bleeding had stopped, he pulled away, and Jesse seemed to relax a bit. Hanzo wiped his hands on another clean rag. “What was it you said? Me estás—”

“I was sayin’ it hurt like hell,” Jesse said, face flushed.

Hanzo inspected his bow again, took stock of their surroundings once more. It didn’t seem that anyone was near. “Can you move?” he asked.

“Probably gonna slow you down if I try,” Jesse said. “But you could—”

“No,” Hanzo cut him off. Jesse finally looked at him, and the lingering touch of red in his eye was unnerving. The dragons didn’t quite agree; they purred at the reminder, made Hanzo’s throat go dry. “I am low on arrows. Your bullets will be useful.” Jesse snorted, but he didn’t challenge it. Instead he watched Hanzo, eyes too alert for how tired he seemed. It was still unsettling. “Tell me a joke,” Hanzo said as he came to sit beside him.

Jesse grinned, the slow, lopsided one that made the dragons writhe as much as the red gleam in his eye. “A cowboy and a samurai walk into a bar.”

Hanzo smirked at him. “You’re already telling it wrong. The cowboy hardly walked in.”

Jesse laughed, then winced a little. “You’re right. I’d prob’ly still be out there on my ass if you hadn’t come along.” He looked at Hanzo then, and Hanzo froze a little, uncertain what he was seeing. “You came lookin’ for me.”

“If I’m going to let you die, it will be when I am fed up enough to shove you off the cliff back home,” he said, and Jesse laughed again. “I won’t let the enemy steal that satisfaction from me.”

Jesse started to say something, but they both heard the crunch of broken glass. Hanzo had an arrow nocked before he had time to think about it, felt the dragons thrum under his skin as he looked for the source of the sound. He saw nothing, but he could sense movement nearby. It was almost infuriating, the certainty that someone was here.

“Sorry to interrupt,” said a voice close to Jesse. Hanzo watched a figure materialize, shimmering faintly as it uncloaked. She had her gun trained at Jesse’s head, and she gave Hanzo a little wave. The static prickled along Hanzo’s arm. “I can kill him and be long gone before those beasties come out,” she said.

Jesse grunted, and he didn’t even bother to aim his own gun at her. “What do you want?” he grit out.

“Aww, you’re my favorite, vaquero. I wouldn’t really kill you,” she said with a laugh. She eyed Hanzo until he lowered his bow just barely, let the tension off so his arm didn’t ache, and she lowered her own gun. “I want to know how you like my present.” 

“Your present,” Jesse said.

“All those files,” she said.

Hanzo could have felt smug, he supposed, but Jesse’s face made it difficult; it shuttered off, seemed to go carefully blank. “You left them? Why?” Hanzo asked her.

She shrugged. “It’s a favor. I want to know what you find.”

“Like you ain’t looked through all of ’em yourself,” Jesse said.

“I have. But I don’t know what’s in here,” she said, tapping a finger to Jesse’s head.

“Stop that if you wanna keep your finger,” Jesse snapped, and she only laughed. “What d’you want?”

“Only for you to share.” She looked at them both more seriously. “I don’t like what they’ve done to him.”

“Gabe?” Jesse asked.

“Who else?” She asked with a snort. “I can fix this for you,” she offered, prodding Jesse’s metal arm with a toe.

“No offense, darlin’, but I don’t trust you farther’n I could throw you.”

She laughed at that. “You could throw me pretty far if you let me hook you up,” she teased, but she didn’t push. “You owe me that intel though.”

“Don’t owe you shit,” he muttered.

“I’ve done you both more favors than you know,” she said, still with the infuriating air of someone who loved to gossip and wanted only to be asked. “I have to go. Shimada, here’s another favor: he told you earlier ‘you’re killing me’.” She laughed to herself, and she disappeared entirely.

He looked at Jesse, who was a curiously vivid shade of red, and he reached down to inspect his arm. She’d bumped it with her foot; there could have been a bug somehow. Jesse suffered a rough search, Hanzo’s hands roving any place near where she had touched him or might have dropped something.

Their teammates arrived shortly after the patdown, and neither he nor Jesse said anything at all about the strange visitor they’d had.

Chapter Text

After the mission, he still went back to their investigation office. He had seen the faces of a few of those he killed, and he hoped he might find them in the sea of old Blackwatch personnel. It was a tedious task, the repetition almost meditative.

He was surprised, though he should not have been, when Jesse arrived. Jesse stood at the door for a moment; he seemed surprised too. He was missing his arm for now, and Hanzo thought it should make him seem smaller, more vulnerable, but he took up all the space in the room that he always did.

Then Jesse gave a tired sigh. “What are you doin’ here?”

“I couldn’t sleep, and I thought I might find some faces I recognized,” Hanzo answered. Jesse hovered by the door looking uncomfortable. “I did not expect you so soon, after—” He cut himself off, frustrated. He’d been right about the files, right to be suspicious; he didn’t know why there was no satisfaction in it.

“After we found out it was the hacker? Yeah, well.” Jesse cleared his throat, and he seemed determined as he approached the desk, circled around it to look over Hanzo’s shoulder from a distance again. “Gabe’s still in trouble, if we can believe her. And I can’t sleep either.”

Hanzo nodded, and he turned back to the screen, though he found it difficult to concentrate now. “Are you angry it was not him?” he asked. These questions were easier with his back turned; it was a little like being out on the cliff in the dark.

Jesse grunted behind him. “I dunno. Why? You gonna gloat about bein’ right again?”

“No,” Hanzo said. He could feel Jesse’s eyes on him, could feel the back of his neck prickle. “I wouldn’t wish that on you. I only wanted to cover all possibilities. Especially with you so… eager to trust.”

“Yeah,” Jesse said quietly. Hanzo heard him let out a long breath.

Hanzo didn’t know why he said the rest. It wasn’t like him to talk unnecessarily, but the silence strained uncomfortably, made his skin feel tight. “It is not a bad trait to want to see the better parts of people.” He glanced over his shoulder; Jesse was still looking at him, not the screen. “It failed you here, but it is… I don’t have that.” He meant the sentiment, although he didn’t have better words to express it. “You are good with people because of it.” Hanzo was bad with them, he knew; Jesse could accomplish things he couldn’t, close distances he couldn’t, because of this thing.

Jesse was quiet for a moment, but he laughed a little. “You tryin’ to pay me a compliment?”

Hanzo turned away, went back to the screen. “It was only an observation.” Jesse snorted, but he left it alone.

Hanzo went back to his task. He did finally see one of the people he had shot, a dark-haired, dark-skinned man with a hard, craggy face, and another, pale and sleek and blond. He marked them both deceased, just like those from Tokyo. There was another, a few clicks away, a person with black curls and brown skin, their gender impossible to read. “Them?” Jesse asked.

Hanzo marked them deceased too, and he glanced back over his shoulder. “Did you know them?”

“Yeah, they… They were alright. Not a lot of decent folks in Blackwatch, but we got along.” Jesse looked uncomfortable, like he was holding back.

“You were friends,” Hanzo said.

Jesse chewed his lip for a moment. “Not a lot of us in Blackwatch were really friends. It wasn’t like it is here. But Baqri was alright,” he said again. He looked at Hanzo for a second and came to some decision. “They picked me up. In Hanamura.” He glanced away then. “They were a lot nicer about it than most of the others woulda been.”

“Oh,” was all Hanzo could think to say. A weight sat in his gut, and he looked again at the picture, studied this person’s face. He was sure he was right, though. “I’m sorry,” he said, past the tightness in his throat. “I hadn’t thought about… that you might like some of these people.”

Jesse huffed at him. “Since when d’you care how I feel about it?”

The question was a little mean, Hanzo thought, if not entirely unfair. He didn’t know what to say to it anyway. “Are you trying to pick a fight?” he asked instead.

Jesse was quiet for a moment. “No,” he finally said. “Just dunno how to feel about you tryin’ to be nice lately.”

Hanzo snorted. “I’m not that nice.” 

Jesse snorted too. “You’re not all bad either,” he said, and Hanzo felt the back of his neck grow warm. Jesse didn’t offer up anything else. 

They went quiet again, and Hanzo began sorting back through the photos, fell into a kind of rhythm with it that let his mind wander on its own. He wondered how many of these other people weren’t quite Jesse’s friends, how many he had liked or respected or fought alongside. He imagined Jesse, in some future room in some future time, with Hanzo’s picture on a screen. He imagined someone asked Jesse if they were friends, and he wondered what Jesse’s answer would be.

Eventually his whole body began to feel stiff, and they traded places. Hanzo did drink then, because he could feel the urge to pace about the room, a restlessness that seemed to reside under his skin like the dragons. He watched Jesse tap one-handed through the files, and he wondered if he should leave him to it. He wondered a great many things, and he drank until he could voice at least one of them.

“Are we friends?” he finally asked, and he realized only after it was out just how childish it sounded. 

Jesse’s shoulders jumped at the sound of his voice, then it was his turn to simply stare. He squinted at Hanzo. “You gettin’ drunk while I work?” he asked, although he didn’t sound especially put out. Whatever Hanzo’s face told him, he pressed on. “Yeah, I guess we are.” 

Hanzo breathed in to steady himself. “You said you wouldn’t lie to me.” 

“You think that was a lie?” Jesse looked offended, looked like he might take back the friends thing.

“No.” Jesse eyed him skeptically, more than a little tense, but he didn’t push. “Why did you lie to Reyes? About the dragons.”

Jesse cycled through a series of subtle expressions so rapidly that Hanzo couldn’t follow all of them. He seemed to finally settle on plain discomfort. “You really wanna talk about that right now?”

“I would not have asked if I didn’t wish to know,” Hanzo said, and he could hear the impatience bleeding into his voice. Jesse’s face started to shutter off, to go stubborn and stony. Hanzo huffed. “You said you wished to clear the air before. This is my last question.”

Jesse snorted, but it broke through some of the stubbornness. He wasn’t clenching his jaw any longer, at least. “I doubt that.”

“The last one about back then. If that’s what you want.” Jesse didn’t answer right away, either the spoken question or the unstated one. He only stared hard at Hanzo like he was looking for something. Hanzo felt something rattling about inside him, the restlessness returning. He pinched the bridge of his nose and huffed again, then he looked away from Jesse, over at the shelves lining the wall. “I don’t know very much about having friends,” he said, and he heard Jesse suck in a quiet breath. “But I think if I’m going to, I need to know these things.” His jaw felt tight at the admission, even if it was nothing Jesse shouldn’t have been able to figure out on his own. It made him feel exposed, especially with Jesse staring at him again.

Hanzo glanced back at him, and he watched Jesse cave in even before he began to speak. “Yeah, okay.” He rubbed a hand through his hair, and he turned to face Hanzo more fully, eyes tracking Hanzo’s face. Hanzo hated the look a little. It took him a moment to place the reason: Jesse seemed to feel sorry for him. It made his skin itch again, and he felt cold all over. “I lied to Gabe because I was there. You… you spent your whole life under your family’s thumb, and I watched 'em tighten the reins.” Jesse glanced away for a second, scratching his hand through his beard. Hanzo wondered if he was thinking the same thing: that Jesse had been part of the reason they had done it. 

When Jesse’s eyes met his again, he seemed a little steadier, more determined. “Listen, I loved Gabe, but he was ambitious and willin’ to do a lotta things I’m not any more. Ends near always justified the means. I’m not gonna excuse every choice he ever made. If he’d known, hell, if Overwatch had known, I didn’t know what they’d wanna do with the intel. You spent enough of your life bein’ controlled, enough of it bein’ treated like” — Jesse breathed in sharply again — “like those dragons are the only thing about you worth a damn. I didn’t wanna be part of that. Woulda made me no better than any of your family.” 

Hanzo couldn’t fully make sense of his own reaction. His skin felt too tight, cold again but too warm too, like the onset of a panic. The ache in his chest was back too, the old one that made him feel weighted in place. He had wanted to know for certain, but he had expected to be denied, or perhaps he had expected something trite, some confession of the things Hanzo already knew: that Jesse had been young, and foolish, and certain he was in love. Hanzo wanted to tell him this reason had been foolish too, that he hadn’t needed Jesse’s protection, that all it had done in the end was expose Genji to Hanzo’s inevitable violence. What he said, finally and through the pain of his clenched jaw, was, “Yet you would have taken me to Blackwatch. Where I would have been controlled anyway. All part of your rescue plan.”

Jesse didn’t seem to take offense to it. He even laughed a little, although the sound didn’t hold any real humor. “Never claimed I had a perfect plan,” he tried, and Hanzo cut a glare at him. The effect was minimal, but Jesse did sigh. “I woulda let you go, if that’s what you wanted,” he said. “After I got you out. I thought about that option, and I. I wouldn’t’ve let anybody force you into it.” He looked away finally, and he looked frustrated. And something more. This conversation was exhausting him, and the realization made Hanzo regret that he’d ever pursued it. Still, Jesse had always been stupidly brave and stubborn. He pushed out a shaky breath out, and he looked back to Hanzo. “All I ever wanted was for you to be able to choose.”

Hanzo felt it again, that icy hot feeling and the weight holding him down. It took work just to swallow around the lump in his throat. It was too much to process, and now it really began to feel like a panic. Hanzo quite suddenly wanted to leave. He managed to look away, and it helped to steady him. “Thank you. For telling me.” He cleared his throat. “You seem tired. I’ll let you have some peace.”

Jesse didn’t argue, and Hanzo managed to escape the office without any further embarrassment. He made it all the way to his room without incident, rubbed at his chest and worked through the last of the sake until he could sleep. He didn’t dream of anything at all.

Hanzo managed not to see Jesse most of the following day. For once, he was grateful to Dr. Kassad; Hanzo’s meeting with him was scheduled for their usual group practices. Hanzo spent most of it staring at the clock again, listening to the doctor sigh and quietly pry with varying degrees of patience. Hanzo was reminded, again without Dr. Kassad stating it aloud, that his mission assignments might depend on his sharing in these sessions. “I do not like to be watched like that,” he stated before the time ran out. Dr. Kassad only wrote it down, then glanced at the clock himself and let Hanzo leave a few minutes early. There was no time to pursue it anyway.

Dinner was another story. He cooked with Hana, who then attempted to torment him with more of her pictures while they ate. She giggled and turned her phone to show him one. It was a photo she had apparently taken when he’d fallen asleep during a movie with her. He looked strangely angry even in his sleep, arms crossed and brow furrowed, hair an utter mess. He had his mouth open with a thin crust of drool at the corner. There was even a bit of popcorn in his beard. 

“That is unholy,” he said, and she giggled again. “Delete that at once.”

“Never,” she insisted. “It’s already in the cloud.”

Genji poked his head over to see, then cackled. It drew Lena’s attention, and Hanzo was sure it could only get worse. He snatched Hana’s phone away, but Genji snatched it back from him and made sure to keep it out of his reach. “So dignified,” Genji declared.

“Emily’s the only person I know who looks good sleeping,” Lena pointed out charitably, “and that’s only because I love her.”

“Okay,” Hana said, “but Hanzo is actually the least photogenic person I have ever met.”

“That’s not very nice,” Lena said.

“Um, I said photogenic, not attractive. That’s the point. He looks like that in person.” Hana flung her hand at him with an eye roll, then she showed Lena another picture that made her pinch her lips together, plainly trying to fight a laugh. “And like this in photos. It’s great. I have a whole album just for ugly pictures of him.”

Genji stopped a little short at that. “Is anyone else concerned by that?”

Hanzo sighed. “She has albums for all of us. They’re scrupulously organized. You should absolutely be concerned.”

“But only one person is special enough to have a devoted ‘ugly picture’ album,” Hana said sweetly. She mock whispered to Lena and Genji, “There are only like three pictures in his normal album.”

They were still delightedly scrolling through them and talking about them loudly when Jesse and Fareeha entered, and Hanzo pinched the bridge of his nose. “Honestly, Hanzo,” Lena said, “it’s almost impressive.”

“He’s always had this problem,” Genji said. “I’m glad we’ve finally all agreed I’m the better looking one.”

“In pictures, perhaps,” Hanzo conceded with a drawn out sigh.

“I don’t know how you manage it,” Lena said. Hanzo scowled at her, and Lena laughed at him. “Oh, now I see,” she teased. He almost wished to go back to the time when she tiptoed around him. 

It was only natural that Fareeha would want to see what the commotion was about, would drag Jesse over with her. Hanzo wanted very badly to leave, but too many of them would have questions if he did. They had to be near the end, at least, and perhaps then he could find a way to leave without making a scene. He watched as the others filled Fareeha and Jesse in, watched Jesse politely look when Fareeha shared the phone. 

Hanzo had seen the look before. Jesse wasn’t even looking at the pictures, not really, had the same sort of unseeing politeness about him that Hanzo got when Hana’s enthusiastic sharing became too much, the same quiet acknowledgments that could humor Fareeha but meant nothing at all. Whatever Jesse was seeing wasn’t right in front of his face. Somehow that was worse than if Jesse had joined in on the joke.

The teasing had not bothered him until Jesse was involved. Seeing Jesse with the pictures, however glazed over his eyes were, gave Hanzo the same sense of being watched. Hana elbowed him, “I should send him some of the good ones, huh?”

Hanzo tensed from head to toe. He cut his eyes at her. “Your jokes are stale. Stop being a child,” he snapped, and Hana blinked wide eyes at him, plainly hurt by it. He hadn’t intended for it to come out so harshly, and it seemed more than only Hana had noticed his tone, even if they didn’t all understand the words. They all stared at him, and the discomfort of being watched again made his skin crawl. He didn’t quite look at any of them, only excused himself.

Hanzo didn’t go back to the office again. He managed to avoid Jesse with surprising ease for several days, in fact, until he received his next mission assignment. Even during the meeting, though, Jesse didn’t speak to him. He wondered if Jesse was similarly avoiding him, if he had prodded at too many old wounds with his questions, or if it had more to do with his current avoidanceHe wouldn't put it past Jesse to have noticed.

The mission itself almost came as a relief. He was high on a roof, a good vantage to look out for the two small teams below. They had planned for the Talon agents, given the recent increase in activity. They had even planned for the possibility that Reaper or one of their other elite agents would appear. They had not planned that he would come for Hanzo first.

He arrived nearly unseen, but Hanzo heard the sound of boots behind him and whirled in time to knock the gun wide with his bow. It was the last easy move. Hanzo had won all but one fight he’d ever been in, but it had been drilled into him by his father that everyone could meet their match. It seemed this was his; perhaps he could have beaten Gabriel Reyes, but he could not beat Reaper. No one had ever taught him how to fight a man who turned to smoke before his fist or bow could land. 

He felt the dragons thrash beneath his skin, screaming as if to tell him it was time. But the split second it would take to summon them might take his focus away, might give Reaper the chance to go for his other gun. He didn’t know if the dragons would follow his will if he died, if they might only disappear or if they might rampage, destroy everyone in their path. So he fought, pressed, refused to let Reaper put distance between them, even with the smoke.

It didn’t matter, in the end. Reaper still got his legs out from under him and sent his bow clattering across the roof, in the end. Got him down on his back, in the end. Clawed his hands tight into Hanzo’s shoulders, tangled in the fabric on one side and piercing right into his skin on the other. He slammed Hanzo back, and Hanzo heard and felt the crack as his skull hit the unforgiving rooftop.

He curled his own hand into Reaper’s coat, grasping for the mask, and Reaper shoved him again. Reaper reached out, clawed fingers digging into his ear to yank out the earpiece for his comm, and he tossed it over the edge of the roof. “Show me,” he snarled, digging the claws into Hanzo’s shoulder. “Release them.” Hanzo’s head spun, still smarting with the pain. Reaper wanted the dragons; the one thing that might save him was the thing he couldn’t give. He didn't know if they would follow his will even in death or if they would only rage, directionless and devouring. Genji was below. Hana and Jesse were down below.

Hanzo stared right into the eyes of his mask. They seemed to gleam red, unnatural, but Hanzo knew he was only a man after all. “I know who you are,” he said, and Reaper tensed, the barest hint of a tell. “So does Jesse,” he risked, wondered if it still matter to him. Jesse believed it mattered. Hanzo had heard Reyes call him by his first name in one of the recordings, worried for him behind all the gruffness. 

Reaper’s weight bore down on him as he pulled the shotgun free, pressed it to Hanzo’s forehead. “Show them to me,” he said again.

“They’ll kill you first,” Hanzo said, and Reaper laughed. Hanzo felt it again, distantly. His mouth went dry, filled with the taste of dust and blood, and he could feel heat far below, from down on the ground. The dragons thrashed, demanded their release, and Hanzo let them come. They tore out of him and into Reaper, who howled so that Hanzo could hear him over the dragons' furious storm wind. It knocked his body back, and Hanzo felt sick at the taste in his mouth, more than only blood now, something foul. Reaper tasted like death, and the dragons hated.

He forced himself to move, scrambling inelegantly for his bow, the sickness in his stomach and the storm in his body making him clumsy. He didn’t look back; he could feel the dragons doing their work. He dropped over the edge of the roof to a small balcony below, then scaled his way down as quickly as he could. The dragons, finished with their work, raced down past him, seemed to fly of their own will toward the battleground, in the direction that unbearable heat had come from.

Hanzo felt when they arrived there too, felt the taste of blood and the crunch of bone between his jaws. When his feet touched the ground, he used the sense of the dragons to guide him toward his teammates. He let their fury overtake him, let it push him to run, to wash clean the taste of necrotic flesh with the taste of fresh blood and the smell of ozone. He saw a sniper on another roof, too high and singular for the dragons to seek out when they could satisfy their greed with so many on the ground. He shot them down.

He turned a corner to find some of the bodies, and Jesse. He was scrambling too, his back to Hanzo, picking his way past the bodies and seemed to be following the dragons. Hanzo, with the wind at his back and the storm inside him, was faster. He saw the sniper before Jesse did, and he grabbed him, dragged him bodily back around the corner before the shot could go off. Jesse thrashed in surprise, swung around fast to pin him against the wall.

“Shit,” Jesse said, and he relented. Hanzo shoved him aside, rounded the corner and shot, didn’t even look first. He saw the body drop, though. Jesse grabbed his shoulder, jerked him back again, and Hanzo turned with a snarl. They had to follow the dragons. He tried to pull free, but Jesse’s metal grip held him still. The dragons were slowing down; the sense of their kills came farther apart now. They were picking off the stragglers. The storm didn’t slow though, and he struggled against him until Jesse leaned his weight in.

He felt trapped again, as he had been so recently, and he bared his teeth. Someone said something, distant and tinny, barely audible over the wind in his ears, and Jesse looked at him. “All clear,” he said, and Hanzo realized belatedly Jesse had been trying to keep him from charging in unnecessarily. The dragons were on their way back to him, confirmed the all clear. This close and with his senses heightened, he could smell Jesse, smell the dirt and sweat and blood on him. “You look—”

Lightning crackled through his veins, and the dragons arrived. Jesse seemed to sense them, and he went wide-eyed, staring as they hovered around. They should have returned, back into Hanzo’s body, but they remained, their primal greed still demanding. Jesse’s chest heaved, and the dragons moved still closer, seemed to take in his scent like any ordinary animals. Hanzo could feel them purring, and he tried to will away their wildness, the wildness that it brought up in him.

Jesse looked at him again, eyes tracking over his face. Hanzo was used to the dragons’ protection, even somewhat used to the ferocious assault on his senses and the madness they brought. He had feared them long ago, and sometimes he still did. But they had never before made him feel exposed. They were unknowable in their entirety, ancient and primal and powerful, but they were also forces of nature, of instinct, and without the desire to kill or to feed or to flee, there was only one possible thing they still wanted.

“Oh,” Jesse breathed, wide-eyed and looking a little wild himself, as if he sensed it too. His chest heaved again. “Hanzo—”

“Don’t,” he growled through clenched teeth, and he dragged Jesse down, kissed him with the taste of blood in his mouth and the wind in his ears, in the ethereal blue glow of the dragons. He clawed a hand into the back of Jesse’s neck, the other gripped tight around his bicep, and he pulled Jesse ever closer, tried to devour him. And Jesse followed, the dragons’ willing sacrifice, body a long, tense line against him and quaking fingers digging into Hanzo’s ribs.

The dragons purred, melting back into Hanzo’s body, and even as the storm receded, he tried to claw Jesse closer. Jesse jerked his head back and snatched his hands away. Hanzo let go, stung by it, and Jesse staggered back a step. He could still feel his pulse raging inside him, but the dragons’ grip had gone. Without them, he could feel the pounding in his head, the ache in his shoulder from Reaper’s claws. He was also excruciatingly, mortifyingly hard, sagging against a wall and surrounded by the dead, with Jesse glaring at him from several feet away.

“What the fuck, Hanzo?” Jesse looked like he couldn’t decide whether he was more stunned or angry, rubbing the back of his knuckles over his mouth like he could wipe it away.

Hanzo wanted to protest. Jesse had kissed him back, he was certain of it. It had felt like ages, but perhaps it was only a second, drawn out only by the tempest that had gripped him, some byproduct of shock and adrenaline for Jesse. He squeezed his eyes shut, tipped his head back, and he tried to will the last of the storm away. “Dragons,” he rasped, still too overwhelmed for more.

He heard Jesse grunt, heard the sound of boots and spurs moving away from him in the alley. He risked opening his eyes, and he found Jesse working a helmet off one of the dead, staring intently at them. This was enough to help douse the arousal, and he forced himself to straighten, exhausted and aching.

He watched for a moment as Jesse examined the bodies, studying the faces. Jesse pulled out his comm device and snapped quick pictures of each of them. It was smart; they should have been doing it all along. Hanzo wondered if he had been inspired by Hana, but he knew he couldn’t ask now.

“Motherfucker,” Jesse muttered as he lingered over one of them. “I liked you.” Hanzo felt like he was intruding, didn’t think he was supposed to hear it. Jesse heaved back to his feet, moving with a weary stiffness as he took this one's picture too. Then he squinted back at Hanzo. “C’mon,” he said gruffly.

Hanzo followed him, watched him smoke with his shoulders practically at his ears. With the dragons and the adrenaline gone, he could feel the shame encroaching. As they walked, he thought about Jesse’s I’m not in love with you and I got no fuckin’ idea what to do with you, about Jesse hesitantly declaring them friends just before Hanzo chose to avoid him entirely. Perhaps the anger made perfect sense. He wondered if they were going to have to talk again, or if he had ruined that entirely. The back of Jesse’s head gave no clues.

With the Orca in sight but still some distance away, Jesse stopped and looked at him, eyes sharp and almost suspicious. They fixated to the side of Hanzo’s head. “How’d you lose your earpiece?”


Jesse went stiff again. “Yeah? What happened to him?”

Hanzo swallowed, made himself meet Jesse’s eye and braced himself. “The dragons.”

He didn’t know what he expected, but Jesse only laughed a little, a cold, strange sound Hanzo’d never heard before. “Yeah, that figures,” he said.

Chapter Text

The ride back was tense and quiet, as if the others read the mood the moment Hanzo and Jesse arrived. Hanzo took a seat in one of the flight chairs and stayed there, clenched his jaw against the pain. Lúcio set up a biotic emitter in the middle, and Hanzo knew he should move closer, but Jesse was there, letting Lúcio look him over and treat a bullet graze on his arm.

Just above the injury were four fading red crescents, left over from Hanzo’s nails. There would be a matched set on the back of Jesse’s neck. If Lúcio noticed, he didn’t say anything. They faded away quickly anyway, too small an injury to hold up against the healing device.

Lúcio glanced at Hanzo, and whatever he saw on his face kept him distant. He said something to Hana, who came to Hanzo in Lúcio’s stead.

You should let him look at you,” she said. “Or let me, at least.

I am fine,” he grunted out.

You’re bleeding, you look like shit, and you’re a rude old man. None of those are fine.” Her face was set stubbornly, not quite petulant, and that along with her tone was enough that it almost made him laugh even now. “Now you can let us help you, or I can ask the cowboy to hold you still and we’ll do it anyway.” 

He felt the blood drain from his face at her threat, and he choked out a strange half-laugh, because he was sure it was meant to be funny. “I told you I didn’t like that joke,” he said.

I heard you. It wasn’t a joke this time,” she said, although there was a smirk trying to fight its way through her scowling. “He’s the only one awake big enough to force you. Don’t think I won’t ask him.” That was true enough; Reinhardt had already passed out on one of the lounge seats, probably something to do with the painkillers and the bandage over his brow.

Hanzo unbuckled himself and stood. The sudden movement made his head spin, and Hana had to have seen, because she tucked herself under his arm and walked him into the field. Genji moved then, quickly at his side and much steadier than Hana, and they got him down on the floor. He could already feel the field working, the strange prickle of it creeping under his skin. It made his wounds itch fiercely, the minor scrapes on his hands and arms tingling as they healed.

“Shit,” Lúcio said from behind him, cool hands on the skin of his back, too cold against the feverish skin around Reaper’s claw marks. “That looks nasty, man. Why didn’t you say something?”

“Because he’s a child,” Hana snapped, and it made him flinch. Lúcio dismissed her to go clean the blood Hanzo had left on the back of his seat.

Genji laughed about it though. “At least someone said it.” Hanzo gave him an annoyed glare, and Genji laughed again. “You look like you were attacked by an animal. Or had a better night than the rest of us. What happened?” Hanzo felt Lúcio press a damp cloth to his shoulder, and he grit his teeth against it. “What happened?” Genji asked again more seriously, this time in Japanese.

Reaper,” he answered.

Genji seemed to deflate, but at least he didn’t look at Jesse. Hanzo didn’t either, but he was aware of him sitting stiffly in one of the seats, not at all far enough away. Lúcio’s washcloth scrubbed over the blood on his neck and ear too, but Lúcio announced that scratch was healing fine on its own, the emitter doing its work.

“Did you hit your head?” Lúcio asked, fingers very careful on his scalp.

“Yes,” Hanzo answered through the tightness in his jaw.


“No,” he said. Genji faced him and made a quiet, disapproving noise; Hanzo could imagine the look on his face. He sighed. “A little.”

Lúcio hummed to himself. “We’re going to the med bay when we land. This scratch is deeper than I thought, and we need to make sure your head’s okay.” Hanzo nodded, then he thought better of it as the motion made his vision tilt. “Wanna tell me what happened here, or do you wanna wait?”

“It can wait,” he said, and Lúcio seemed to accept it. Even with the mask on, it was obvious that Genji continued to watch him.

Lúcio adhered a bandage to his shoulder; from the cold and the way it made the skin itch, it too probably had some biotic gel. “Good enough for now. We have meds for the pain. Might help you get some sleep too. Which you definitely need. You look pretty rough.”

He could still feel the weight of Genji’s stare, so he gave in. “Yes, thank you.”

He took the pill with a clear bottle of water, then Lúcio and Genji prodded him toward one of the bench seats. Hana came back to him, sat right next to him with her feet on the table, and she looked hard at him. “You shouldn’t be so stubborn,” she scolded in Korean.

I have healed from much worse,” he said. She didn’t look impressed by this, and he sighed. “Thank you for your concern, rabbit.” He closed his eyes, could already feel the medicine setting in. Or maybe it was still his aching head. He inhaled sharply, pushed the breath back out through his nose. “I should not have called you a child before. It was unkind.

Yeah, it was.

It was untrue too.” He forced his eyes open again, made himself meet her gaze. “You are not a child. I’m sorry.

She bit her lip, then she looked away from him, put her head on his good shoulder. “Thanks. I won’t make the joke any more. Are you going to tell me why it bothers you?

He glanced hesitantly at Jesse, who was forcibly looking anywhere but at him. “Later,” he promised, and he closed his eyes, felt the medication actually taking hold this time, and he started to drift off.

You should be more careful,” Hana whispered as sleep tugged him down.

He woke in the med bay with Lúcio and Dr. Ziegler nearby. They had redressed the shoulder wound as he slept, and after a few questions and a look at his head, she declared it acceptable for him to leave.

Lúcio escorted him out, tapping away at his comm. “I did not need all that,” Hanzo told him.

Lúcio shrugged. “Better safe than sorry, especially with a head wound. You didn’t see how deep those cuts on your shoulder went either, man.”

Hanzo breathed through his irritation and thanked him instead.

“Debrief in ten,” Lúcio told him. “I can tell them if you need more time, but I figured you’d prefer to get it over with. If you need any more of those meds, let me know. More sleep wouldn’t kill you.”

“Thank you,” Hanzo said again flatly. It was Lúcio’s job, and a kindness too. He had no good reason to be annoyed by it. His mood seemed to amuse Lúcio anyway; Hanzo doubted he was the first resistant patient, and the thought made him feel strangely better.

They settled into the conference room early. Between Talon and Hanzo’s dragons there were plenty of things to discuss, and even if Hanzo chose to say nothing about Reaper, he knew Jesse likely would. 

“Agent Hanzo, your report,” Winston said. He and Morrison were at the same end of the table this time, and Morrison stared him down, reminded Hanzo with just a look that he could save every one of them with his dragons and still remain untrustworthy. Morrison was probably correct.

Hanzo told them in quick, short words beginning with the drop off. His voice caught when he got to the part about Reaper though. He could feel Jesse watching still, feel the tension coming off him in waves. “We fought. He had me cornered. He insisted I release the dragons.”

Genji’s head tilted to the side as if he was considering. “Cornered?” he pressed. The room had already been quiet, but now it was entirely silent, eerily so, with all eyes on the two of them. Hanzo looked only at his brother, pushed past the sense of unease their stares brought. “You should give all the details,” Genji suggested in Japanese. “Some don’t understand.” 

Hanzo clenched his jaw, thought about Morrison’s distrust, about Jesse’s anger with him as if Hanzo had simply chosen to attack Reaper after everything they had discussed. “I should not have to justify it,” he said, as if Genji were the only one in the room. 

But you do. We all do. Tell them. I am curious anyway.”

He let out a frustrated sound, then he looked at Winston, squared his shoulders. “He pinned me to the ground and took my earpiece. He told me to ‘show him’ the dragons, and he held me at gunpoint until I did so.” He kept his gaze on Winston and Morrison, resisted the temptation to look at Jesse to gauge his reaction.

“Did he say anything else?” Morrison asked.

“No,” he said, and Morrison grunted, seemed unsatisfied. It made the irritation under Hanzo’s skin bubble up again. “You’ll forgive me if I failed to interrogate him thoroughly while I had a gun to my head.” Someone snorted quietly, but it certainly wasn’t Morrison.

They let him get through the rest of the story in relative peace, and he stopped at finding Jesse, saving him from the sniper. There was no need to discuss either the kiss or the pictures Jesse had taken of the Talon agents. 

Morrison asked, “So is he dead?”

Hanzo heard Jesse inhale sharply, but Hanzo still refused to look at him, only held Morrison’s gaze. “I do not know,” he answered honestly. He had tasted dead already, but Hanzo didn’t know how to explain that. He didn’t think he wanted to either. “I don't think so.”

Eventually they let off, moved on to others’ versions of events, debated amongst themselves about why Talon wanted the dragons. Hanzo should have paid attention, but he found himself tuning them out, too exhausted to focus well anyway. The dragons moved lazily under his skin, stirred by the memory of their kills and by Jesse’s presence.

He met Hana near midnight, settled onto the couch in the rec room. She put on one of her dramas, one they had seen before, and she turned the volume up a note too high in order to cover their own voices.

Even so, Hanzo kept his low and hushed, kept his eyes on the screen. He kept the explanation short too, but he told her. “We met before. Years ago, before… before Genji. The clan hired him as our personal bodyguard. He was undercover for Overwatch, and I was a fool.

Hana waited, but his inability to go on clearly strained her limited patience for silence. “Oh my god. Were you together?”

Something like that.” He took a sip of his sake. “The clan figured out he was an agent. It did not go well.”

What does that mean?

Hanzo took another swallow of his drink. “It means I banished him under threat of death. They wanted me to kill him outright.

Hana picked over the popcorn in her bowl, and she seemed to be thinking hard about what to say. “So you had some kind of illicit affair with your bodyguard, who turned out to be an undercover enemy agent, and then you banished him, and now you’re here and so is he.” She laughed a little, then murmured an apology at the sight of his glare. “That sounds so—” she glanced at him again “—awful, actually. I think I’d hate it. Did you love him?

I didn’t really know him, did I?” He caught himself rubbing a palm over his chest, where that old, stupid weight used to reside.

Hana let out another small sound, but he couldn’t know what it meant; she had her face turned away from him to set the popcorn bowl on the table. She tucked her head against his shoulder, and he lifted it to let her under his arm. She made another funny noise, then she said, “You lied, old man.” She poked him in the side. “You said it wasn’t like one of my dramas.

It shouldn’t have been funny, not really, but the telling of it had loosened something up inside him, and he laughed, just a huff at first, until it turned into something uncontrollable, left him shaking helplessly with it.

It only took a few days for his brother to grab him by the arm after dinner and all-but-drag him outside. He dug another of Jesse’s cigarillos from the panel on his chest and handed one to Hanzo. “You haven’t been around in a few days,” Genji said, and Hanzo knew he was referring to the investigation.

Hanzo said nothing at first, but he accepted the smoke anyway. Genji only waited for him to answer. Hanzo focused on his breathing, then he said, “I don’t believe I am still welcome.”

“I assume you mean Jesse?” Hanzo cut his eyes at Genji, who nodded at him, satisfied by that answer. “I doubt he is angry with you for fighting Reaper. We all knew it was a possibility.”

“I suspect there is some difference between ‘a possibility’ and the reality. Especially when I am the one who did it.” He was surprised by the steadiness in his own voice, and he watched a little cloud of smoke float off.

Genji hummed thoughtfully at that, but his eyes were still sharp. “You were getting along though. Did something else happen?”

Hanzo huffed through his nose, reached up a hand to pinch the bridge. Even Genji’s vague question sent a spike of shame through him and made his skin crawl. “I don’t want to talk about it right now,” he said, and Genji made an annoyed little grunt. “I thought you didn’t want to be in the middle.”

“I… perhaps that was unfair of me. I don’t, not really, but you should be able to talk to someone.” Genji looked at the ground then, scarred brow drawn heavy over his eyes. “And I don’t like not knowing.”

It was something Hanzo understood keenly, but he was still unwilling to discuss it. He would have to face Genji’s advice, face his scorn or, perhaps worse, his sympathy. None of the options were appealing. “I will tell you. But not right now.” Genji seemed, if not satisfied, at least willing to let it go. He even let out a little chuckle. “What?”

“That is much better than either pretending you are fine or only doing as I say.”

Hanzo started at that. “I don’t know what that means.”

“It means you shouldn’t only do things I ask because you think you owe me,” Genji said with a shrug, but the tension in the rest of his body gave away that his nonchalance was false.

“You want me to stop listening to you?” Hanzo asked.

Genji let out a frustrated noise, air rushing through his vents. “I want you to take my advice because it is good advice, not because you won’t tell me no.”

Hanzo rubbed at the bridge of his nose again, annoyed by it. He wasn’t sure how to respond, so he made himself smile wryly and asked, “And if your advice is terrible?”

Genji laughed at that, and some of the tension went out of them both. “That will never happen. I’m the smart one.” Hanzo laughed too, and Genji gave him one of those measuring looks. “You should come tonight though. Angela has found something in those files we gave her.” 

It would be new information, something they had been waiting on for some time, but he was in no mood to see Jesse. “I will think about it,” he said.

Genji smirked again, but he nodded. They were quiet for a moment, then Genji looked sideways at him. “You can’t avoid him forever. You may as well get it over with.”

Hanzo elected not to go to the meeting. As much as his curiosity ate at him, he could ask Genji later. In the meantime, he stayed in the quiet of his room, idly scrolling through his tablet without reading much of anything.

It was late when the knock finally came. Assuming it would be Genji to report on their meeting, Hanzo opened the door to find Jesse on the other side, hands in his pockets. His face was caught in some strange place between contrite and determined, and his presence itself was enough to throw Hanzo off, leave him standing there with the door thrown open. 

“You got a minute to talk?” Jesse asked, and he didn’t sound angry at all, sounded nothing like the last time they had spoken.

Part of him wanted to close the door again, but he stood frozen by it instead, by the strangeness of Jesse’s about-face. “I was not expecting you,” he said dumbly, and Jesse’s mouth twitched a little.

“Yeah, I bet not.” Jesse gestured toward the room. “Don’t think the hallway’s the best place for it. Can I—?” Hanzo stepped aside, wordlessly let him in and shut the door behind him, wondering if Jesse were only waiting for some privacy before he dropped the act. He turned to face him again, but Jesse still didn’t seem angry. Wary perhaps, and looking Hanzo over with an expression that was impossible to name, but not angry. “I’m sorry,” Jesse said.

“For what?” he asked, stunned enough by it that he let out a strange huff of a laugh.

Jesse looked away for a moment, ruffled a hand through his hair, the gesture familiar and disarming. “What happened the other day was. It was a lot all at once, and I didn’t know how to handle any of it. Didn’t set in until after that maybe you’d been through a lot all at once too, that you coulda—” Jesse cut himself off, voice hoarse. “Anyway, I’m not mad you defended yourself. Not even against Gabe. I know how you like to jump to conclusions.” He smiled wryly. “I hate how you jump to conclusions.” He looked back at Hanzo then, a stubborn set to his jaw. “But if any of how I acted made you think that, then I’m sorry.”

“This is what you came here to say?” Hanzo asked, another disbelieving laugh trying to escape.

Jesse made a frustrated sound. “Didn’t want you walkin’ around here thinkin’ I wished you’d done that part any different.”

“That part,” Hanzo repeated, and he felt the sick curl of shame in his stomach.

Jesse laughed a little at that. “Yeah, well. I’m sure you didn’t really think you were off the hook for everything just ‘cause I’m glad you’re not dead.” 

He swallowed. “The dragons—”

“Yeah, them.” Jesse cut him off, sprang from contrition to annoyance too quickly, like it was something he’d just been waiting to release. Hanzo tensed instinctively. “The dragons attacked Gabe, the dragons shoved your tongue in my mouth — surrounded by dead people, by the way, and I’ve gotten into some kinky shit in my day, but that was a first — and I’m sure the dragons are why you didn’t tell me ’bout Gabe before you pulled that stunt.” Jesse let out a long breath, scratched his metal hand through his hair again. When he spoke again, he was calmer but no less firm. “And maybe you get a pass on weird shit after a close call, I can write it off as ‘under the influence’ if you really want, but if it ain’t the dragons, it’s somethin’ else. You wanna be drinkin’ buddies, you wanna actually accept me askin’ you to work together, you can’t blame dragons, so you put it on Genji. So tell me, is it dragons that solve your problems by avoidin’ me, or is that one your brother?”

In the silence that followed, Hanzo tried to figure out how to respond. There were too many options, none of them truly clear, and it left him frozen for a moment. He was sure he should defend himself somehow and just as sure Jesse had gotten more right than he had gotten wrong. His throat tried to close, and he pushed past it forcibly. “You don’t understand,” he said finally, through the tightness in his jaw.

“No shit,” Jesse said with a laugh Hanzo could sense was tinged with some frustration. “Enlighten me.” 

It felt like a trap, one from which every escape route required a sacrifice. It occurred to Hanzo that he could insist Jesse leave, but the shame sitting hot in his belly wouldn’t allow it. He seized onto his earlier conversation with Genji. “I was not avoiding you.” Jesse snorted at that, and Hanzo pressed his lips together for a moment. “Fine. I was. It wasn’t—” He breathed out hard through his nose. “I need time, sometimes. To think.” It was frustrating to admit even that much, but Jesse seemed to deflate a little, some of the tension escaping.

“You know you can say that, right?” Jesse asked after a moment.

“Can I? The last time I told you to leave me alone, you pushed anyway.” Hanzo flushed a little at his own tone, and he clenched his jaw again to bite off the other words that wanted to come up, the ones borne of agitation more at the current tension than at Jesse himself.

Jesse stared at him for a moment, then let out another huff. The rest of the fight seemed to drain from him. “Fair enough,” he said quietly, and he looked away again, down at the floor like it held some answer Hanzo couldn’t give him. He scratched a hand through his beard, a strange smile pulling his mouth to one side. He was silent for a moment, and so was Hanzo; there was almost a relief in it when he realized Jesse didn’t know any more about what to say than he did. “At risk of pushin’ my luck here: you feel like sharin’ any of that stuff you’ve been thinkin’ about?”

“No.” Jesse snorted, and Hanzo could see the way his face started to shutter off again. “I mean I don’t know,” he said quickly. “I’m being honest with you. What more do you want?” 

“Maybe I wanna be the one who gets to demand answers and actually gets them,” Jesse said ruefully and, it seemed to Hanzo, a bit unfairly.

It caught him off guard, and he could feel the irritation threatening to come back. “You don’t get to be angry that I haven’t given the answers to things you haven’t asked,” Hanzo said sharply, and Jesse stiffened. “Or that I don’t know every answer. I am trying.” He worked hard not to sound sullen, but he suspected he might have failed.

Jesse stared again, this time with that stare that made Hanzo feel like a specimen under study. Hanzo resisted the urge to shift his weight with his discomfort. “You asked me why I lied to Gabe and you ran off when I told you. Why?”

Hanzo flinched away from it despite his best efforts. “I don’t know. You didn’t do anything wrong though. It wasn’t you, it was… a lot,” he ended lamely, echoing Jesse’s words back at him.

“A lot,” Jesse said, almost as if to himself. “This is you tryin’?” Jesse asked, and he seemed like he suddenly found something about it funny.

“I… yes?” He gestured helplessly, could feel himself flushing with the admission. “It is not easy.”

Jesse snorted at that, still a little amused, and more than a little thoughtful. “So you don’t just get off on withholding?”

“No.” He looked to the side, tried to collect his thoughts. In some ways this was worse than his appointments with Dr. Kassad, but here he felt the pressure of his shame, the sense that he owed Jesse something even as he wanted to shield himself. “None of it is easy to put into words.”

Jesse’s face flickered from amused to something almost injured, before it settled again on studying him. The look only grew more intense as his gaze moved over Hanzo’s face. Hanzo could feel the discomfort of it creeping under his skin, and it left him feeling short of breath. “Okay,” Jesse said, too quietly to disrupt the tension slowly curling around him. “Okay,” he said again, as if to himself, the determined set to his jaw returning. “Consider this one of my questions.” Jesse took a step closer, still watching Hanzo far too closely.

There was a buzzing in the back of Hanzo’s head, almost like the static before the dragons came. Hanzo had a hundred chances to move, to say no, to say anything at all as Jesse closed the distance between them, but he remained silent, remained still and suspended with only his galloping heartbeat and the writhing of dragons to assure him time had not in fact slowed down. He wondered if this was what their enemies felt in the face of Deadeye, and the heat that washed over him, that seemed to radiate from Jesse’s body, was something like that too. 

Somehow he remained convinced he was mistaken, that he misunderstood somehow, until the moment Jesse ducked his head and Hanzo felt the faint puff of air across his lips. Hanzo waited for the final step, but it didn’t come. In the space between one heartbeat and the next, Hanzo remembered: Jesse had called it a question. He expected an answer.

Hanzo let out a shaky breath, and he could feel the matching tremor in his jaw as he tipped his face up, moved slowly but inexorably toward Jesse. It was a tiny distance really, the effort required to breach it entirely disproportionate to the task. Their lips brushed, the movement so small it could barely be called a kiss at all, and Jesse inhaled sharply as if he were surprised even now. There was something brutal in the fragility of the moment; even the dragons had gone still.

Jesse’s fingers rose to graze the sides of his face, cool on one side and too warm on the other, both equally tentative, and Hanzo leaned in, lips pressing and parting as his hands curled into the front of Jesse’s shirt. They moved in slow, careful increments, each kiss firmer and hungrier than the last, shuddering breaths caught between. Hanzo heard a low, wounded sound, and he only realized it was his when Jesse pushed forward to swallow it down.

Then something shifted as Jesse’s hand cradled the back of his head. Jesse kissed him slow and sweet and savoring, set Hanzo’s nerves on fire. He slipped an arm around Hanzo’s waist, pulled him tight against his firm body, and licked languid and hot into his mouth. Hanzo felt it in his knees, felt himself sway into it. It was achingly familiar even now, the soft scrape of Jesse’s beard the only appreciable difference between this and dozens of the same languorous kisses over a decade old. It overwhelmed him as it always had, brought with it the same heavy weight in his chest.

He dropped his chin down to carefully break the kiss, intending only to catch his breath and try to piece together a coherent thought. “Don’t,” Jesse breathed out, lips brushing wet and warm against his cheekbone. “Please don’t.”

“Don’t what?” He almost laughed, unsure what to do with any of it.

“Don’t pull away. Not now.” Hanzo did though, only enough to see Jesse’s face. His brow was drawn down as if it hurt, and it made Hanzo’s chest ache. “I need to know you’re not gonna wake up tomorrow and try to pretend this didn’t happen. And I don’t need all the answers, but don’t... don’t hide from me.”

Hanzo nodded, tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. “You have more questions,” he said once he freed it.

“Guess I do,” Jesse admitted quietly. “Is that all you wanted?”

“I— No,” he said. Jesse’s eyes were intent on his face, back to studying him, and big and soft and hopeful too. Hanzo squeezed his own eyes shut and forced the words out. “This is difficult enough without you staring like that.”

Jesse laughed a little. “So words are hard and I can’t look at you either? You’re really limitin’ my options here.” His tone had the strange lilt of forced lightness, and it made Hanzo open his eyes again, though he cut them to the side, unable to hold his gaze for long.

“You know what I have lived through, yet you’re surprised I don’t like to be scrutinized?”

He could feel Jesse still staring, felt his cheek go hot where Jesse’s thumb stroked it. “Okay,” Jesse said. “You gotta give me somethin’ to work with though.” Jesse finally put some small distance between them, and Hanzo closed his eyes against the strange sense of simultaneous relief and disappointment. “Let’s try this,” Jesse said, voice low and quiet as he moved, put himself behind Hanzo. His fingers brushed over Hanzo’s shoulders and down his arms, moving like he wasn’t sure where to settle them, or like he couldn’t help but touch. Either way, they left goosebumps in their wake, and Hanzo could feel his pulse rushing even with that. “Tell me this ain’t just some itch you’re tryin’ to scratch.”

His voice was low in Hanzo’s ear, made him shudder a little, but he laughed at the same time, helpless with it. “I don’t know what that means.”

Jesse laughed too, the sound quiet and still frustrated, a low gush of air against the side of Hanzo’s neck. Jesse pressed closer, his body a furnace against Hanzo’s back, and his hands finally settled on Hanzo’s hips. “Tell me it’s not just sex. It’s more than that, ain’t it?”

“Oh,” Hanzo said, feeling stupid with it. “It’s more.”

“Good answer,” Jesse practically purred, nose buried behind his ear and lips on his throat. Hanzo got a flash of memory then, of trading questions and answers for kisses what felt like a thousand years ago, and it was all he could do to keep breathing. “You want me to stay when it’s done?”


“Every time?” Jesse asked, hands skimming up Hanzo’s sides, bumping over his ribs as he eased Hanzo’s t-shirt up, pulled it off with Hanzo’s help and tossed it aside. 

“Sometimes,” Hanzo said, and Jesse’s hands paused, a second’s hesitation.

“S’okay,” Jesse murmured, pressing a kiss to his shoulder, the same side Reaper’s claws had been, where there would be another scar if it were not for the quick treatment. His warm hand slid across Hanzo’s hip to his stomach, trailed fingers from his sternum to the waistband of his pants and back up. “Might be a little early to start shackin’ up.” He laughed low near Hanzo’s ear, sent another shudder through him. “You wanna keep spendin’ time with me when it’s not sex?”

Hanzo thought about it, though the hands on him were a distraction. He could feel Jesse pressed hard against him, digging into the small of his back. He swallowed and closed his eyes again. “Yes,” he breathed, barely audible.

Jesse’s hand stopped briefly again then resumed its lazy path. His mouth lingered for a moment on Hanzo’s neck, then he said, “Yeah? Me too.” His fingers slipped low again, patiently slid the button of his pants free from its hole, pulled the zipper slowly down. “No more excuses though.” His hand slid past the waistband of Hanzo’s underwear, skidded knuckles down the side of his cock, and Hanzo gasped as he pushed into it. Jesse grabbed his face then, cold metal fingers careful against his jaw, and that made him gasp too. Jesse turned Hanzo’s face toward him. “Tell me it ain't all just memories. Tell me you want me, not some ghost.”

His fingers curled loose around the base of Hanzo’s cock, and Hanzo finally reached a hand up to tangle into Jesse’s hair, watched his eyes go heavy-lidded when he pulled. “I want you,” he grit out, and Jesse’s mouth sealed against his, and it was the same as before, the same syrupy slow, sweet kiss Jesse’d always preferred, somehow languid and unrelenting at once. Hanzo could only hold on, braced by Jesse’s body and the fingers on his jaw, while Jesse’s other hand worked over his length, pulling slow and sweet and determined just like his kisses.

He felt the pressure build, hips jerking forward in little stutters. Jesse swallowed down every gasp for a time, then abandoned his mouth altogether to bite at his jaw and down the side of his neck. He could feel Jesse’s hips rock against him, denim chafing in the dip of Hanzo’s back. Jesse’s metal hand held him steady, grasped at his chest, and he found he didn’t mind, actively enjoyed, the cool metal palm on his overheated skin. Jesse muttered against his skin, mouth hot against his neck and ear and shoulder, and Hanzo felt the heat and pressure pool low in his gut. “I got you,” Jesse murmured again and again as if to reassure him, and it was impossible to breathe, to do anything but shake apart to that strange refrain.

He felt his knees try to give out and he came with a low keening sound in Jesse’s hand, with Jesse’s arm locked around him and Jesse’s broad body pressed hot against his back and Jesse’s words in his ear. He stayed where he was, muscles twitching in the aftermath, with Jesse still murmuring quiet reassurances at him. Eventually they made it to the bed, too small for two people, and Hanzo collected himself enough to return the favor, to kiss Jesse until he was breathless too, to push through the old, familiar ache with his hands and mouth and body, at least for a little while.

Chapter Text

Hanzo had first noticed it when he’d been brushing his teeth, but he put it off until he had turned on the shower. While he waited for the water to grow hot, he inspected his reflection again. It was faint, hardly noticeable if he hadn’t been looking for it already, but there it was: the barest stain of red on the side of his neck, the shape of Jesse’s mouth burned into his skin. He traced his fingers over it, dug them in to see if it was bruised as well, stared at the evidence of it until steam began to cloud the mirror.

The shower was meant to be quick, perfunctory, but he lingered, did his best not to think about Jesse, although that was an ultimately fruitless endeavor. It was impossible not to replay the night in his mind, the confessions Jesse had coaxed out of him, how he had been surprised — or had wanted to be surprised — by his own answers. How Jesse had admitted to so little himself.

Perhaps it was unfair. Jesse had given him few answers in return, but Hanzo knew well that there was still something vulnerable in the asking. He had his own questions, and no good instinct for when or how to address them.

Frustrated with things he could do nothing about, he let his thoughts wander to those that were more pleasant, back to the vivid sense memory of Jesse’s mouth and hands, to the way his skin felt, smooth in places and hairy in others, riddled with scars in a variety of textures. It had been disorienting, discovery clashing violently with familiarity. There was nothing new to the way Jesse had overwhelmed him though. That part at least remained consistent.

The memories buzzed under his skin, dragons winding lazily and heat coiling low and tight in his gut, ebbing as he went through the motions of his shower, only to return again when he opened the door to find Jesse, who sat upright at the end of the bed, staring at his communicator in the light of the bedside lamp.

He had been braced to find Jesse asleep, perhaps even hoped to find him gone from the room, a merciful exit to buy them both time, but he should have known Jesse wouldn’t be so gracious. In any case, he had not quite prepared himself to find Jesse awake and alert. The slow, lingering heat was shot through with a strange, uncertain feeling, and he stopped short in the doorway.

Jesse’s eyes met his, and whatever had been on his face before transformed immediately to a look Hanzo had learned to read long ago: plain, naked desire. His mouth pulled to the side in a slow, easy smile, and Hanzo felt his whole body respond to it. “Mornin’,” Jesse rumbled at him, voice still low and sleepy.

Hanzo could feel it, something like giddiness rising inside him at the way Jesse looked at him; the attention made him want to preen as it always had, and it jostled aside many of his doubts, threatened to do the same to anything resembling coherent thought. He held it at bay the best he could, gestured at Jesse’s communicator. “Do you have somewhere to be?”

“Not yet,” Jesse answered, then he gave a little laugh and ran his tongue across his teeth. It should not have been attractive. “’Cept maybe to brush my teeth.”

“I have a spare,” Hanzo said, perhaps too quickly.

“You sayin’ you don’t want me to go?” Jesse’s mouth curled, far too knowing, and Hanzo could feel the heat threatening to rise in his cheeks.

This too was overly familiar. Jesse had always enjoyed teasing, trying to make him blush. It was a strange power to want to wield. “I'm saying you may use a toothbrush,” he said curtly, but Jesse only laughed at that too, even as he made his way past Hanzo to take him up on the offer.

Jesse didn’t take long, only long enough for Hanzo to squeeze more water from his hair and ensure there were no important messages on his own comm. Just long enough for the uncertainty to begin to nag again, questions he’d held off swimming back into focus with nothing to distract him.

Jesse reappeared, leaning in the door frame, taking up more space than he ought to, as he always did. “I was thinkin’, might be a good idea if we talked.”

Hanzo let out a huff, smiling despite himself. “Is that really what you want to do?” he asked. He tried to meet Jesse’s gaze, but it was too busy roaming over Hanzo’s body.

“It was one idea. Wasn’t the only one I had.” There was the smile again, wry and lopsided, attractive in a way that was almost infuriating even now. It had always gotten under Hanzo’s skin, and that seemed no different now than before. Jesse met his eye finally, and the smile crept slowly wider, knowing again and cocky with it.

Hanzo took a moment to soak in Jesse’s shameless attraction. This reminder, at least, wasn’t an unpleasant one. He had forgotten what it was like to be so fully the subject of Jesse’s attention. Overwhelming, yes, but it could make him feel powerful too, could give him the sort of single-minded focus that banished all his questions and doubts.

It made him feel powerful now. Smug smile or no, Jesse wouldn’t look away; Hanzo got the distinct impression he couldn’t. “Come here,” he said. It was quieter than he had intended it, but Jesse heard it anyway, crossed to the foot of the bed — to Hanzo — in two long, easy strides.

Hanzo let the towel drop between them, and he pulled Jesse closer with a hand at his hip. “You sure you don’t wanna talk first?” Jesse asked on a breathy laugh. Hanzo pressed a palm flat against Jesse’s stomach, pushed up over his chest until Jesse caught Hanzo’s hand in his own, fingers too hot around his. “Don’t wanna repeat all the same mistakes.” It had been a joke before, but Jesse’s voice was more serious now, and quieter too.

It was enough to make something in Hanzo’s chest compress, but Hanzo forced the feeling aside, pushed closer into Jesse’s space. His fingertips tripped over Jesse’s elastic waistband before they settled over the dip and bump of his tailbone, and Hanzo mouthed at Jesse’s jaw. “I am so tired of talking.”

Jesse let out another breath, shakier this time, his face already turning toward Hanzo’s. “Later, then.”

Hanzo didn’t answer. It was too easy to drag his lips over Jesse’s jaw, scrape them against stubble and beard, and up to Jesse’s mouth. Easy to part his lips and invite Jesse in, tongue teasing until Jesse collapsed forward to seal their mouths together. Easy to coax Jesse onto the bed and back out of his underwear, to slide to his knees. It had been a long, long time since he had done this, but he wanted.

If Jesse noticed Hanzo’s brief hesitation before he took him into his mouth, he said nothing about it. Instead Jesse rambled out a quiet, seemingly endless stream of praise, most of it nonsense. His hips shifted restlessly, fingers skimming over Hanzo’s cheeks and through his damp hair, fingers strangely delicate on his jaw like Jesse was afraid to push or pull.

Jesse had already pushed enough, the night before. He had made Hanzo’s need impossible to ignore. Once acknowledged, it felt dark and cavernous, unrelenting, and he wasn’t interested in letting Jesse speak or leave or anything else until at least some small part of it was sated. Hanzo cradled the weight of him on his tongue, and he pulled Jesse apart with his mouth, left him shuddering and gasping, willingly undone at Hanzo’s hand.

He swallowed it down when Jesse came, pushed him back onto the sheets and climbed up his body, kissed him until he could no longer taste it on his tongue. The dragons curled under his skin, lazy at first, but the feel of Jesse under his fingers, of Jesse’s hands skimming over his sides, made them grow more insistent, pushier. Possessive, he thought, and he dug his teeth into Jesse’s skin and took himself in hand, knuckles grazing Jesse’s stomach. The rest didn’t take long. He surged forward, forehead sliding into the crook of Jesse’s neck, mouth dragging over his skin in search of anything to ground him, and he spilled over Jesse’s stomach. He heaved out a few breaths, eyes squeezed shut while he waited for his pulse to slow.

His hand slipped through the mess on Jesse’s belly, and he pushed his fingers in, tried to grind it into Jesse’s skin in a move that made the dragons practically purr. Possessive, he thought again, and he laughed quietly to himself, light-headed and high on dopamine. Hanzo swept some of the mess onto his thumb and pushed it against Jesse’s lips. He wondered if Jesse would resist, would say something, but Jesse only pushed up onto his elbow and drew the thumb in, heavy-lidded gaze on Hanzo’s.

Jesse had never said no to him, not in the bedroom; he had always given anything Hanzo could think to ask or demand. Anything Hanzo wanted. The reminder stuck in his throat, and he pulled his hand back, slow and careful as if his whole body hadn’t gone rigid and given him away already.

Jesse stopped him from going far, with a hand on his wrist and the other caught on the nape of Hanzo’s neck. His grip wasn’t tight, could have easily been broken, but it was insistent, pulled Hanzo back in even as he tried to withdraw. “If you’re gonna freak out, you gotta do it out loud,” Jesse said quietly, fingers kneading at the back of his neck as if that alone could dissipate the tension.

“I am not—” Hanzo cut himself off at the sight of Jesse’s raised eyebrow, which only made Jesse snort. He responded with a frustrated huff. “Are you making rules now?”

Jesse laughed outright at that. “It’s why I wanted to talk before.” Hanzo only stared for a moment while Jesse maneuvered them both, found his discarded underwear to clean himself up. “C’mere,” Jesse mumbled when he was finished, scooting backward on the bed. Hanzo reluctantly allowed himself to be drawn forward until they were lying together again. “They don’t have to be rules-rules. Up for negotiation, maybe. Seems like that’s a good one, though.”

Hanzo had nothing to add, but it was hard to argue against it. At least, it seemed some further clue of what this was, if Jesse wanted to talk so much. Still, he wasn’t interested in discussing these rules or the memory that had crept in. “We can negotiate later,” he answered, and Jesse only grunted. “If you wish to talk, then you can talk,” Hanzo said. “Last night, you got your answers, but you— What do you want?”

“You,” Jesse answered, mouth pulling into that crooked smile again. “Thought that was obvious.”

“Charming,” Hanzo said flatly. It made something curdle up inside, made him angrier than he thought he should be.

Jesse seemed to sense it, went tense again so quickly that it gave the lie to his seeming casualness. “Somethin’ wrong with that answer?”

“Surely you don’t think I still need to be seduced,” Hanzo said, unable to keep the sneer out of his voice.

Jesse looked stunned for a moment. He huffed, disbelief strung tight across his face before he scrubbed a hand over it, flopped back onto the sheets with a quiet groan. “I want to go twenty-four hours without navigatin’ a minefield.”

The barest prickle of shame rose up at that, although Hanzo was equally convinced it was as much Jesse’s fault as it was his. “And I want an answer that does not sound rehearsed.”

Wide brown eyes blinked back at him. It seemed he’d caught Jesse off guard somehow, stunned him out of whatever it was he was planning to say next. “Jesus, Hanzo,” he said, and then he laughed, perversely enough. “Only you could insult a man by tellin’ him he’s too smooth.” It should have been insulting, should have sent another wave of irritation or shame through him, but Jesse said it with such a strange fondness that it leeched any ability to truly react. For once Jesse seemed unguarded, and it was Hanzo who felt disarmed. Smooth, cool fingers brushed over his cheek, and Jesse took full advantage of his silence. “C’mere,” he murmured, and Hanzo let himself be drawn in again. Jesse trailed fingers down his spine, soft and almost ticklish between his shoulder blades. It wasn’t as relaxing as it was probably meant to be, but it was better at least. Better than staring at Jesse, thinking about before.

Idly, Hanzo trailed his fingers over a long, smooth scar over Jesse’s ribs, then another, lower, the small telltale crater of an old bullet wound. Both were newer than the last time he had done this, back when Jesse had told him the stories behind all his scars, many of them surely lies. Both might also have been mortal wounds on someone less lucky; he wondered how many times Jesse had narrowly avoided death. He got caught up in the thought and in tracing more scars until Jesse finally grabbed his wrist between careful metal fingers, drew his hand up to kiss his fingertips instead. It was difficult to say if it was a distraction from the scars or only something Jesse could do now that he wanted, but at least it anchored him back in the present. “Why did you change your mind? You seemed so angry before.”

Jesse let out a low grunt, a sound Hanzo was beginning to associate with him gathering his reserves of patience. “Hearing what happened between you and Gabe put some shit in perspective.” Hanzo risked a look up at Jesse’s face and found him looking back. “Maybe it made some stuff seem smaller.” Jesse wet his lips, shook his head like that would clear it. “I tried bein’ mad about it. I tried avoidin’ you, I tried just bein’ friends and I. None of it changed what I want.” Hanzo felt for a moment like he couldn’t entirely breathe, body suddenly too weighed down for it. “Either of us could be dead tomorrow, and I’m so tired of fightin’ myself over what I want, Hanzo. Aren’t you?”

Hanzo tried not to recoil at the question, though it sat heavy in his stomach. He thought he should give Jesse some answer, some peace of mind at the very least, but the mention of Reyes shook something else free. “He flinched,” Hanzo found himself saying.


“Reaper,” Hanzo said, and Jesse’s face and body both went strangely stiff, but it felt as though he was trying to hide it, trying to force his muscles to go loose and casual again at the same time and all the more strained for it. Perhaps the act would have worked, if he had not been nude and pressed against Hanzo. “When I told him we know who he is. He flinched. I thought you should know.”

Jesse’s face went focused again, took on the look of a man picking over another puzzle. Now that he was free to do so, Hanzo could admit it was an attractive look, one somehow removed from sex and all these other things. Jesse sat up, unsettling both of them, and Hanzo took a moment to gather himself. There was a relief in the sudden change of direction; it hadn’t been his intention, but it still seemed to make it easier to breathe to turn their attention to something else entirely.

Naked in Hanzo’s bed, Jesse recounted the meeting Hanzo had missed the night before, body animated in a way it hadn’t been during their tense discussion. That too was a relief, in some ways, although the news was troubling: the former Blackwatch agents they had all identified had also undergone routine, continuous treatments — experiments, the data suggested — at the hands of Dr. O’Deorain. Dr. Ziegler’s translations had not yet found out why or how this mattered, nor what the experiments might be, but it was a pattern, clear as day.

There was more, of course. It wasn’t merely translation that was required, but included multiple cyphers that Dr. Ziegler could not crack for herself. She’d had to enlist Athena’s help, which meant asking Winston, which meant involving Morrison too, in the end. Reyes and Blackwatch were as much his business as theirs. Their operation was no longer a secret; Dr. Ziegler had done this already without asking. Hanzo was glad again that he had skipped the meeting, although he could imagine Winston’s hulking body squeezed into the tiny office, hunched in on himself and trying desperately to remain polite. Jesse assured him it was exactly as amusing as it sounded, but that it was the only part that had been.

There was something dire about it, naturally, and Hanzo felt the strangest sense of grief over losing their secret operation, though he had already suspected they were on borrowed time. But there was something energizing there, too, something galvanizing about turning their attention to a problem that might have some solution, away from all of the things left hanging. They had worked well together, and they still did, and in the moment that seemed like more than enough to banish the other doubts.

Even so, there was more relief when Jesse finally left. Although the dragons did not seem to agree, squirming under his skin with displeasure, the rest of Hanzo’s body felt exhausted, muscles aching as they released a tension he hadn’t realized he was still holding. He wondered if Jesse felt the same.

Hanzo felt that Jesse’s fatalism combined with his need for talking made this, whatever it was, something of a calculated risk. It wasn’t a revelation, exactly, but it rankled to think of himself in those terms, however fitting they may be.

He wondered if he should tell Genji. They hadn’t discussed any of what to do next, whether they should tell anybody at all or if that seemed like some breach of protocol. He had no desire for this to become another point of scrutiny, and he equally had no doubt that it would be. He could perhaps manage it better if he explained any of it for himself, but the idea of explaining to Genji left a bad taste in his mouth that he was not yet ready to interrogate.

After another quick scrub, he braced himself the best he could, but the day was entirely uneventful. He kept to his routines, and so did everyone else. There was nothing out of the ordinary, no knowing looks from his brother or Hana, no questions from his colleagues. Morrison eyed him warily in the hallway, but that may have been Morrison being himself, or it may have had something to do with the reveal of their clandestine investigations. It was difficult enough to tell, and either way it hardly mattered; Morrison did little more than make his continued disapproval of Hanzo known. Par for the course.

He saw no more of Jesse than usual, and no less either. Jesse arrived at lunch with Fareeha as Hanzo was on his way out with Mei, and they exchanged no more than a quick smile. It was strange in its normalcy, in the way Hanzo’s skin buzzed with anticipation, the dragons seeming to hum beneath it, with no outward change beyond Jesse’s return from his previous avoidance. Team practice went much the same: they ran drills and sparred, Hanzo against Zenyatta this time, who gave him a far harder time than he thought an omnic monk had any real right to.

The entire day was perfectly normal, to the point that he was even occasionally bored. Nothing had changed except the things that lived under Hanzo’s skin and inside his own head, and it made his chest tighten with anticipation. With the sense that, surely, something had to happen.

In hindsight, he was probably expecting it somehow, or even searching for it. The anticipation was what finally sent him outside, the itch under his skin too much to bear with no appropriate outlet, and that was where he found Jesse: at the cliffside. At their cliffside, flask already in hand and a cigarillo dangling between metal fingers.

Hanzo hesitated, as he always had, and Jesse looked up and snorted out a laugh. “Really? You gettin’ shy now?” he asked, then waved a hand at Hanzo, movements loose and plainly signaling intoxication.

“I wasn’t expecting— if you need to be alone—”

Jesse snorted at him again. “Then I’d say so. Get over here,” he insisted, and Hanzo was grateful for it. Jesse fished out another smoke wordlessly, almost reflexively, and offered it over, but Hanzo refused this one. “Met up with Morrison earlier.”

Hanzo didn’t know what to say to that exactly. “And?”

“He’s tryin’ to get up my ass about the investigation again. Can’t even say I blame him for it.”

“I saw him today. He said nothing to me about it.”

Jesse let out a strangely rueful laugh, took a quick swig of the whiskey. “He won’t. Told him to leave you out of it. Told him I roped you and the others in and it was all on me. True enough, anyway.”

“You did not have to do that.”

Jesse smiled at that, knocked their knees together. “I know you can deal. Just didn’t seem right to give him any more reason for a grudge against anybody.” The bit about the grudge made Hanzo curious — Morrison knew about before, though Hanzo’d also given him reasonable cause to dislike him now — but Jesse seemed to shrug it off, wind the conversation toward the usual lighter fare. Even this was similar to before their kiss, easy talk and Jesse’s jokes and his occasional story, a mix of the wildly outlandish and small, mundane pieces, but as with the rest of the day, the normalcy of it felt strange in itself, as if Hanzo existed just to the left of what really was.

Tonight, Jesse told him about Ana Amari, who had taught him to shoot and, according to Jesse, also taught him all the good manners he promptly forgot. Hanzo had heard of her, of course, as a matter of record and in hushed talks at the Watchpoint, but never firsthand from Jesse, not like this. He had believed, this whole time, that the only mentor Jesse ever had was Gabriel Reyes, but Amari was there too now, suddenly colored in for him in a way she had never been. He wondered if there was some meaning to that, or if it had simply never come up. The fact that she was Fareeha’s mother, and the sheer reverence with which he spoke of her, suggested the former.

It occurred to him, out on the cliffs and again while walking to their rooms, just how little he still actually knew Jesse, how many blanks there were left to fill in. He knew enough, he thought, and he knew more than Jesse would like in some instances. But small things, details that suddenly mattered, seemed elusive. He had not been able to predict Jesse’s behavior, and it was not his experience that most people surprised him in pleasant ways, even if Jesse had more than a few times. The anxiety returned, the sense that there was a bubble waiting to burst.

“You comin’ in?” Jesse asked at his door, and Hanzo wondered if he should. He wondered if he should instead give them both time, and space, to let it all sink in. He wondered if this was one of those things they had done wrong before, too much too fast, a mistake Jesse’d said he didn’t want to repeat. “I wish you would,” Jesse said, and Hanzo could only nod along.

He was struck again by how spartan Jesse’s room really was, by the tidiness of it all contrasted with all the things about Jesse that suggested it should be the opposite. The door closed gently behind him, and he felt strangely as though he had chosen wrongly. Felt out of place among Jesse’s things. Jesse’s eyes on him didn’t help; Jesse stared like he was something novel and impossible to comprehend.

Then Jesse didn’t let him think at all, suddenly, startlingly dragged him in for a kiss, mouth harsh like he was starving for it, sucking the air from Hanzo’s lungs and filling his mouth with the taste of whiskey and smoke. It was all Hanzo could do to keep up. Jesse’s kisses had always been intense, but this one was something else entirely, something that smacked of a need too desperate for a man who’d had sex just that morning.

Hanzo wondered what it could possibly be. If he had said something that lingered too long. If it had been Morrison. If the talk of another dead mentor had brought back Jesse’s fatalist approach to sex. Maybe it was only the alcohol or the strangeness of it all.

Hanzo gasped free of the kiss, tilted his head just so and Jesse pressed their foreheads together instead, radiating heat. “Jesse—”

“I still can’t believe—” Jesse breathed out harshly against his cheek, hands on his face and neck, and Hanzo felt strangely trapped. “I’m sorry, I know you don’t wanna look back, but I. Morrison said some shit, got in my head today, and I just. I gotta know.”

He’d known there were limits to Jesse’s patience, but this seemed far too limited, even under the circumstances. Hanzo was reminded, again, that Morrison had seen all Reyes’ old files too, had heard Jesse’s reports on the events from before. Whatever the man had said in the here and now, it had to have more to do with before. Hanzo couldn’t know what it was or what had sparked this in Jesse, but he still had no desire to return to that pain. Hanzo tried to recoil, but he was already backed up against the wall.  “I said I need time. I don’t want to discuss the past,” Hanzo said. He could hear the tension in his own voice, and still Jesse didn’t back down.

“And I have to. Just tell me I didn’t just make it all up in my head, that I wasn’t only a dumb kid gettin’ tied up in knots. Tell me it was somethin’ to you.”

“Jesse—” Hanzo breathed. “Don’t—”

Jesse laughed, rough against his skin, forehead hot and pressed tight against Hanzo’s neck. “You never.” He made a frustrated sound, this time not quite a laugh, and when he pulled back, the shadows hung in his eyes again. “You never said anything. I never knew what you felt or—”

“It was three months, Jesse,” Hanzo snapped, agitated and uncertain he could find a full explanation. It wasn’t only the past, or even only Jesse’s need to blow right past his resistance, but something else. “Three months, thirteen years ago. What should I have felt? What should I have said? What seems reasonable to ask of me?”

“Didn’t say it was reasonable,” Jesse said, shoulders hunching. “But I never got to know. I spent thirteen years comin’ up with a hundred explanations for what happened and what coulda happened and what I shoulda done different, and not once did I ever actually know if you— it was messy and fucked up but I was yours, Hanzo. D’you know how much stupid shit I did to stay? I was yours, and I never knew if it was even real for you.”

Jesse hands on him grew frantic, tangled in his clothes, and Hanzo didn’t know what he was supposed to feel, but the anger seemed to surge the highest, all at once. “I brought you into my bed every night, and every time was a risk. I knew the risk, I knew what they could do with any weakness, and I did it anyway. For you.” Hanzo tensed, and Jesse backed up, wide-eyed, red in high points on his cheeks like he had a fever. “I challenged my family for you. I risked my status, my birthright, for you. I saved your life. I gave you the dragons,” he snarled, the anger inside him feeling radiant for once. “My life was not my own, and I still gave you so much. And somehow that is not enough for you! There’s always more with you! What more could you want?”

“I wanted to know—”

“What? That I felt the same thing you did after three months? Maybe I was unsure! Maybe I didn’t have the same words you couldn’t say, Jesse!”

“I wanted to know some part of you was actually mine, Hanzo. You coulda had all of me and I was ready to settle for any piece at all, long as I could say it was mine alone.”

“Which part, then?” Hanzo stalked toward him, and Jesse stood his ground. “What could possibly have been enough then? What could be enough now?” He swayed his weight into Jesse, grabbed his hand, shoved it down where Jesse’s hot fingers reflexively clutched at his ass. “Is this enough? Is it enough to know you were the last one here? To know that the last time anyone properly fucked me was the same day I found out you’d betrayed me? Is that the claim you wished to stake?”

Jesse’s hands spasmed against him, and his eyes went wide as if he could finally see Hanzo again past his own selfish angst. “No, not like—” he started, then his jaw clenched and his hands grew rougher, dragging Hanzo’s hips against him. “Yes,” he croaked out, a surrender and a challenge at once. With Hanzo’s hand on his shoulder, Jesse dropped to sit at the foot of the bed, and Hanzo followed. “Goddamn it, I— yes.”

Hanzo couldn’t describe how he felt any longer. Angry and hot all over, and he wanted, too, even now wanted Jesse’s hands on him, wanted to sink his teeth into him. “Selfish,” he spat, tangling a hand in Jesse’s hair. Jesse made a low, animal sound in his throat, and Hanzo pulled harder. “Greedy.”

“Yes,” Jesse breathed. Jesse shoved at Hanzo’s shirt, hands skating up his sides and back down, clasping desperately at him, but Hanzo jerked himself free again, yanked his own shirt off on his way to Jesse’s bedside table.

“And I suppose you have been so faithful,” he snarled. He jerked the drawer open hard enough that it upended its meager contents, clutter spilling to the floor. He dug through and found the expected condoms and lube, tossed them accusingly at Jesse. “Selfish,” he snapped again.

“I know,” Jesse snapped right back. “I know.”

Hanzo wrestled with his own pants, hands shaking with the toxic adrenaline surging inside him, with the need to lash out, to punish, to be punished somehow, all of it mingling with his rising, undeniable desire. “Come on, then,” he said. “You may stake your claim again.”

“Hanzo,” Jesse said, as if he meant to protest, even as he moved closer, drawn like a magnet as he’d always been.

“Take what you want,” Hanzo snarled at him. “It won’t be enough for you, but you may have it anyway.”

Jesse tried to say his name again, a funny, broken sound after everything, but Hanzo only snapped and growled at him, urged him on until Jesse inevitably did as he was told, shoved Hanzo hard against the wall, kicked his knees out wide on the bed. His fingers, though, were surprisingly careful, slick and patient and infuriatingly slow as they crept inside him. Hanzo gnashed his teeth at the feeling, at the burn and the slowness of it, too much and not enough, at war with the cloud of things in his head.

“Selfish,” Hanzo panted.

“I know,” Jesse said again.

“It won’t change the past.”

“I know.” Jesse let out a strange, low noise Hanzo didn’t care to try to identify, and he buried his face against the back of Hanzo’s hot neck, fingers stretching and massaging inside him, rocking in time with Hanzo’s hips.

It left him shaking, feverish and overheated, his head too heavy to hold up any longer. “I gave you all I could, and it was not enough for you,” Hanzo breathed out, shuddering with it, and he thought he might go limp without the wall or Jesse there to brace him.

“I know,” Jesse said again, voice rasping against his skin. He slid in then, huge and hot, breathtaking as he’d always been, and Hanzo was grateful for the wall and Jesse’s weight bracketing him, to the way Jesse propped him up and pushed and pulled at him, because he was too overwhelmed, too boneless to do it himself. Jesse mumbled while he fucked him, sighs and pet names and sentences, most of them the same senseless sex talk he’d always done. But one in particular rang in Hanzo’s head all throughout, and later too. With a hand at Hanzo’s throat, Jesse sobbed it into his neck, wet as it was with sweat and maybe more: “All these years, you were supposed to be mine.”

The old weight returned to his chest, and another sat heavy in his gut, but his head felt strangely light, buzzing and hollow enough that the words only echoed. Jesse’s beard scraped at his skin, mouth on his neck and breath in his ear, and his hands and body seemed to envelop Hanzo while he moved inside him, relentless as he’d ever been. Jesse couldn’t be banished or ignored or do anything less than take up all the space he’d carved out in Hanzo’s head and still demand more. Hanzo surrendered to it, sank back against him and let his head loll back onto Jesse’s shoulder, let Jesse carry him through it, exhausted and aching and his nerves alight with every movement.

His eyes and lungs burned even after it was over, muscles aching from the tension and release, the flood of adrenaline and everything else. They lay curled on the bed, Hanzo’s fingers tangled tightly with Jesse’s even after everything. He didn’t know how to explain himself, to explain any of what he’d said or done. His head felt fuzzy, stuffed with cotton, his tongue thick with it too.

Jesse didn’t break the silence, but he did carefully unlatch their fingers to rub a hand down Hanzo’s arm, over chest and stomach to pull him snugly back against him, nose brushing softly over the nape of Hanzo’s neck. It was an imperfect sort of soothing, but it was soothing nonetheless, even if Jesse seemed to have no better words than Hanzo did.

Jesse’s hand slowed and his breathing grew deeper, and Hanzo swallowed around his thick tongue. “I don’t—” Hanzo said, and he heard Jesse inhale sharply, body suddenly tense again. “I can’t change any of it. I can’t tell you how I felt then. I didn’t know, and words do not mean the same thing to me as they do to you, and I was afraid of,” he paused, searching, “so many things.” It stung to say aloud, but all that followed was Jesse’s quiet, even breathing, the curl of his body tightening around Hanzo’s, and Hanzo thought the sting might be that of a poison finally draining. “You lied and humiliated me and betrayed me, and I still spared you. I didn’t do it because I was a good man, Jesse. If you had been anyone else…” He flinched again. “I couldn’t do it. Because I was too weak to do it. Because it was real to me. Even after I thought you had only— it was real, and you doubt me and resent me because I can’t go back and say it the way you wanted then—” He cut himself off on a harsh, strangled sound, fingers clawing at Jesse’s metal hand like he could strangle that too.

“I’m sorry,” Jesse breathed, drawing ever tighter around him. His lips brushed a careful kiss against Hanzo’s neck. “You have no idea how much I wish I could change. We did our best, both of us, in a shit situation, and I’m still sorry.” He shifted again, beard scraping Hanzo’s skin where it was already raw. “But I didn’t know, Hanzo, I— I couldn’t. You kept me at arm’s length. Even when you didn’t have to. Like you had one foot out the door.” Hanzo went still and stiff, but he couldn’t argue. He could, in fact, remember vividly his own paralysis whenever he thought of Jesse’s old devotion, could remember Azami’s voice ringing in his head: I think he would die for you. “You’re still doin’ it, and your family ain’t here to hurt us. I got nothin’ left up my sleeve. There’s no reason.”

It sat wrong, but his head felt too fuzzed to argue. Details and counterexamples eluded him, because there was some truth at its core, even if he felt diminished by the dismissal of all the reasons that still felt entirely too real. “And if I still don’t have the words? If I need time, if I—”

“Then you’ll get time. For real this time. I ain’t telling you what you’re supposed to feel or say to me, darlin’. I’m sayin’ I need you to say something, though. Don’t lock me out. Don’t leave me guessin’.” Jesse’d said it last night too: don’t hide from me and no more excuses. It was the same, one of the only things Jesse had really asked for, whatever else Hanzo had done or given. The realization of its consistency was almost embarrassing.

Hanzo swallowed hard, but he could feel the truth of Jesse’s claim, could see how much strain it had caused so quickly, how impossible it would be to sustain. Something small and alarmingly fragile inside him shook at the idea that this was something to sustain at all. He breathed it in and out again. “I can— okay,” he said haltingly. He uncurled his fingers from Jesse’s, rearranged them to buy himself a moment. Then he said, “I’m sorry too.”

They lay again in silence, but this one felt easier somehow. Hanzo thought again of poison draining, of a wound finally lanced or a fever breaking. He let himself be content in Jesse’s arms, lulled by the sound of Jesse’s breathing slowing and faint feel of Jesse’s heartbeat against his back. Even the perpetual weight in his chest felt less like a burden and more like an anchor, something to ground him for once.

He couldn’t say how long he drifted like that or if either of them slept, but eventually he had to move from the coil of Jesse’s heavy limbs, if for no other reason than to satisfy the urgency in his bladder. Washed up and back out of the bathroom, he caught sight of the upended drawer, and he moved wincingly toward it.

Jesse, too, was up and about, but he paused halfway through pulling on a shirt to watch Hanzo, looking curiously wary after everything.

“I’m sorry,” Hanzo said again, the words feeling strange but correct in his mouth. “I should not have—” He set the drawer back into its hinges and started to put things back.

“It’s alright. I got no secrets to keep from you,” Jesse said a little wryly, but his wariness had not yet faded.

“No?” Hanzo laughed a little at that, the expulsion accompanied by a feeling he couldn’t name. A burst of more tension and relief, maybe. “Still, they are your things, and I shouldn’t have—”

“No, but they’re just things, darlin’.”

And it was true, at least. There was little more than clutter, odds and ends that made little sense together even as they made perfect sense for Jesse: the condoms and lubricant, a broken watch and a spare box of ammunition, a bullet casing that seemed to fit nowhere, lighters and cheap cigarettes and cigarillos and a few nicer cigars, scraps of paper and a collection of drives, and—Hanzo’s hands stuttered to a stop—a blue silk ribbon, threadbare and faded and spattered with rusty brown stains. He had no attachment to it in particular, no real memory of it, but he heard Jesse draw a sharp quick breath, and he knew in his bones it was his, the kind he’d worn a very long time ago.

“Just things,” Hanzo said, unsure himself whether it was a question. He had other questions, mostly why, but they all seemed foolish, the kind for which he should know the answer already.

“Maybe an understatement,” Jesse said with a quiet laugh.

Hanzo could picture Jesse with it. He didn’t know how or when he would have taken it, whether it was deliberate or accidental that it ever left Hanamura with him. Hanzo had carried mementos before, some of them fondly and some with pain and some to remind him of his duties. He wondered which of these it had been, if Jesse still took it out on purpose, cherished like some treasure, or if it was one of those items one tucked away and forgot again, until it reemerged to punish him, always on the verge of being thrown away but somehow never quite. Hanzo was familiar with them all. Perhaps the ribbon had been all of those things at different points in time.

Something about it made the weight in his chest ache, made his tongue want to dry up again, but he had only just promised Jesse the effort. “Is this—” He swallowed, because it didn’t seem the right question, and he forced himself to get off the floor, to sit on the bed instead. “You asked me to tell you that I wanted— that this was about you now, but you never…” He trailed off, wryly thinking of Jesse’s own demand for words and language that Hanzo’d so easily dismissed.

“Never told you the same?” Jesse asked, quiet and close, weight settling onto the bed beside him.

“Correct.” He couldn’t quite bring himself to meet Jesse’s eye, could stare only at the ribbon now, but he did turn as if by instinct toward Jesse’s warmth. “Is this only about the past for you? Am I?”

He had accused Jesse of exactly this, before: of romanticizing it all, of not seeing him clearly. If it were true, he should have known, and he felt cold and foolish for not asking before now, before everything else, before he had so critically exposed himself to another possible betrayal. “No,” Jesse said. “I don’t— it’s not easy.” Jesse’s hands closed around his, stilled them where one had been mindlessly winding the ribbon around the other, and Jesse slowly, carefully began to wind it back the other way. “All the old stuff is a mess, and there’s a part of you I missed. Even after everything, even when I wasn’t supposed to. And sometimes I look at you and I still see that, but. But I know you aren’t the same man. And I like that. I like who you are now.”

Hanzo huffed quietly, for lack of any other sound he could make, still overcome by the sense that this might still be a lie, aching as he was and with clutter at his feet. “Why?”

Jesse pulled the ribbon free, trapped it between their hands, and Hanzo dared to look at him. “Saved my life a couple times, for starters.” Hanzo let out a quiet laugh at that, but he couldn’t deny it. “Helped me when I asked for it. Told me the truth about Gabe, even though I think you didn’t want to. Stuck to your guns with Morrison and with me. Tryin’ to do right, even if it don’t come natural. I know how much work that takes, ‘cause… well, me too.” Jesse smiled a little at that, a shadow of the usual lopsided, roguish one, and it made Hanzo smile reluctantly back. “You’re funny and smart as hell and you give as good as you get, and you can put the fear of God into folks, and that is so hot I don’t know how to handle it sometimes or what kinda man that makes me.” Hanzo flushed in familiarity with exactly what Jesse meant, and Jesse’s smile only got wider and brighter. “Face like that don’t hurt, either,” Jesse said, “and not for nothin’, but I like this a lot better. Not that you weren’t always a looker but—”

“I understand,” Hanzo said, mostly to get Jesse to stop now that he’d started on this. It was quickly shifting from overwhelming to vaguely embarrassing, even if the vainest part of him still wanted to preen at Jesse’s attentions. He freed a hand to stroke fingers through Jesse’s beard. “I like this better too.”

“I knew it,” Jesse practically crowed, and Hanzo laughed helplessly in the face of it. Jesse’s face went more serious again, and he uncurled their hands, the ribbon still sitting in Hanzo’s palm. “It’s just a thing, Hanzo. Take it back, throw it out, it don’t matter to me. I don’t want it. I gotta deal with the past, but that don’t mean I want it back. I want you, and if the first day we met was tomorrow, I’d want you then too.”

There was still a part of him that wanted to resist, to protect himself by believing Jesse could still be lying, any time, but it was harder now to listen to. He was not so naive as to think they had solved everything here and now, but Jesse wanted to solve it, wanted him, and that felt like more than enough. “Me too.” Hanzo pulled him in for a kiss, and he could imagine that too: another lifetime, one with better timing and better circumstances that still, against all odds, included Jesse McCree. “Me too,” he said smiling into Jesse’s mouth, and he drew him back onto the bed, the little scrap of silk left crumpled and forgotten on the floor.