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Rooster in the House of the Rising Sun

Chapter Text

Hanzo is going to die.

They’re on a night op in Niigata in the middle of a raging spring storm, Hanzo occupied by fighting off several Talon operatives who had surprised him on the roof, when Talon drops a helicopter down on top of Hanzo’s position. The roar of the wind swallows up the sound of the chopper until the rotor wash is kicking the rain sideways, and then it’s too late. Hanzo barely has time to shout a warning to the rest of the team, to gasp out, “Brother, I’m-” before he’s overwhelmed by black-clad operatives and the earpiece is ripped away. Hanzo dimly hears someone shouting that they need him alive, but alive doesn’t mean unharmed, and Talon is angry.

His dragons howl, furious and helpless, as Hanzo’s bruised and battered body is dragged into the helicopter. His head bounces off the steel grating as they throw him to the floor, and he sees double for a moment. Concussed, then, and broken ribs, from the pain when he breathes, and his right wrist is sprained, at the very least, from when one of the Talon operatives had very deliberately ground their heel into it. Hanzo closes his eyes for a moment, fights down nausea through the turbulent takeoff, and tries to think through the pounding in his head. At least the fresh, damp air whipping in through the bay doors as they fly low and fast into the night helps drive the cobwebs away.

He will not allow himself to be made a pawn. Shimada Hanzo will die with honor, and he will take every last one of his captors with him.

Talon will learn to fear a dragon with nothing left to lose. The dragons purr their approval, and he can feel them wrapping around his mind, shielding him from the pain of his flesh.

His captors ziptied his hands behind him, but it doesn’t matter now if he will never draw a bow again. He holds that thought foremost in his mind and breathes through the pain as he slowly, slowly dislocates his right thumb and works his hand out from the confines of the ziptie. His injured wrist screams at him and he very nearly whimpers more than once. Luckily the helicopter is deafeningly loud, and Talon is sloppy with the satisfaction of a job well done. No one pays attention to their captive where he lies on the floor, except for the occasional booted foot that kicks him back into the center of the cargo area if he rolls too far with the shifting of the helicopter.

One more incremental, agonizing movement and Hanzo’s hands are free. He stays still for a minute, two minutes, hands clutched behind his back, as he catches his breath and waits for the tears of pain to subside.

All he needs now is a weapon. Any weapon. Something like the boot knife of the operative nearest him.

The dragons hunger.

Hanzo waits for the helicopter to hit another patch of turbulence, and takes advantage of the motion to roll toward his target. He brings his left hand up, draws the operative’s boot knife-

-and releases the dragons.

There is instant chaos, and Hanzo laughs aloud - a wheezing, breathless sound - at the carnage as the dragons rampage through the tiny space. It’s so small Hanzo sees one of his dragons spiral out the bay door on one side, wrap around the belly of the helicopter, and nearly catch its tail as it dives back in the the other side. The screaming is loud enough to hear even over the roar of the rotors.

A sudden horrible lurch accompanies the dragons finding the pilots, and sends Hanzo tumbling toward the open bay doors, agonizing pain lancing through his chest as his ribs slam into the floor. There’s no one to catch him now, and for one endless second his body hangs in the opening, nothing but blood and metal behind him, nothing but darkness and rain in front. Hanzo looks up, sees the dim grey line of dawn in the distance, and tips over into empty air.

I am sorry, brother, he thinks as he falls. The helicopter is above him now, wreathed in lightning and coils of dragon and trailing smoke, strangely beautiful in its destruction. Hanzo closes his eyes. Genji will mourn Hanzo, though he shouldn’t, and Hanzo regrets that he will once again be the cause of his brother’s anguish. And there is the bottle of imo-shochu in among Hanzo’s belongings, something with a little more bite to it for the cowboy whose company Hanzo is sometimes lucky enough to enjoy in the evenings, when they sit above the Watchpoint and drink together as the sun sets, cheerfully insulting each other’s taste in liquor while McCree smokes his cigarillos. Hanzo had meant to offer him the imo-shochu soon, see if perhaps the thing they have might become more, but now it will never be. Perhaps McCree will find it when they go through his belongings, or perhaps Genji will simply take it as more evidence of his brother’s many failings.

Something like a static charge washes over Hanzo. His eyes jolt open, and for a moment he sees nothing but crackling cyan, until he blinks and finds that his dragons have left the carcass of the helicopter - now engulfed in dirty orange flames and tumbling toward the earth - and wrapped themselves around him. They’re breaking his descent, he realizes a moment later, as the wind rushing past him slows. And not a moment too soon, because even as the realization hits, the dragons are guiding him through the tops of dark trees, nudging him away from branches, and ever so gently letting him down to rest on damp, cedar-scented earth beneath a towering tree. He can dimly see a shimenawa wrapped around the trunk above his head, the straw rope pale against the dark bark. There must be a shrine nearby. That’s good, Hanzo thinks - at least this way, his body will be found. Perhaps they will even be able to identify his body.

“Thank you,” Hanzo says. His voice is rough, and with his ribs a whisper is all he can manage. “You have given your master honor in death. With my last breath, I release you.” The words are ancient, as old as the Shimada themselves.

The dragons twist around him one last time, their movement casting strange bright shadows across the forest floor, before they streak up and away from him, vanishing into the dark trees.

So. It is done. Hanzo closes his eyes, breathes as slowly and deeply as he can, and waits for death to come. It won’t be long, now - his lungs bubble with each breath, and taste the salt and iron tang of blood on his lips, and he is very, very cold. He can feel water drops on his face, and the ringing in his ears has subsided enough that he can hear the rustling, echoing hush of the forest after a storm, as the trees drip and little streams fill up. It is one of Hanzo’s favorite sounds, and he smiles through the pain at hearing it. This is a more peaceful death than any he has imagined for himself, and perhaps he does not deserve it, but he appreciates it nonetheless.

His reverie is interrupted by the sound of light footsteps approaching through the forest. Hanzo tries to jerk upright, only to fall back to the earth, an agonized noise escaping him.

There’s a laugh - amused, but not cruel - and then the interloper halts beside him and leans into Hanzo’s field of view. It is a person of exceeding beauty and indeterminable gender, wearing robes of an ancient, archaic style, the colors and fabrics more beautiful than any of the masterworks Hanzo has seen. The stranger’s hair is jet black and long, so long it trails on the ground behind them, twisting like spilled ink among the trains of their robes. Hanzo’s own dragons flank the stranger like obedient dogs, but even as he watches they shimmer, blur, and disperse.

“So you are the one that dropped a dozen dead men in a burning coffin into my forest,” says the stranger in a lilting, pleasant voice. They cock their head at Hanzo, an oddly animal motion, and Hanzo notices the tail, fluffy and red and tipped in black, that twitches around the stranger’s bare feet.

“My deepest apologies,” Hanzo rasps out, “honored Kitsune-dono.” It occurs to him, for just a moment, that perhaps he should wonder if he’s hallucinating, but Hanzo is a man who keeps two dragons in his soul. A kitsune is no more strange than that.

The kitsune laughs again. “I will forgive you, Shimada Hanzo,” they say with a twinkle in their eye and a mischievous quirk to their lips, “on account of your politeness. And because your dragons asked very nicely. And because you’re a very pretty man.”

“My thanks,” Hanzo whispers, as wryly as he can. There is little point in antagonizing the kitsune, and politeness costs him nothing. A shiver wracks his body, and the spasm brings pain that drives the breath from his lungs. His body wants to cough, but coughing only brings more pain, and for a long minute he he seems to hang suspended, unable to draw breath or exhale what little air is left in his lungs, until the kitsune drops to their knees next to him and lays one cool hand on his chest. All his muscles instantly relax, and Hanzo takes grateful, gasping sips of air.

The kitsune is looking at him, a considering expression on their face. Somehow, out of everything that has happened to him in the last day, Hanzo finds this the most alarming.

“You are dying,” the kitsune says, thoughtfully. Their sharp eyes glitter in the dim pre-dawn light.

“Yes,” Hanzo replies.

“What would you give me if I could save you?” The kitsune asks.

“What do you want?” Hanzo answers their question with a question. He is so tired, and he doesn’t deserve this second - or third - chance. “I was lord of the Shimada-gumi. They are shattered now, but their riches-”

“I don’t want your gold, human,” the kitsune interrupts scornfully. “Give me a kiss, pretty man, and I will save your fragile body.”

“Will you steal my heart, too?” Hanzo asks with weary amusement. He is, after all, familiar with the stories about kitsune.

“I can’t,” says the kitsune with an undignified wrinkle of their nose. “One of my cousin’s children has stolen your heart already.” The kitsune sounds very cross about this state of affairs.

Hanzo is, for a moment, terribly confused - wouldn’t he remember bargaining with another kitsune? He is certain he has never met another, much less given away his soul, but his thoughts are interrupted by the kitsune tapping his nose with one long, elegant finger.

“Don’t die on me, pretty Hanzo,” The kitsune says sharply. They shrug out of their outermost robe - vibrant coppery silk with a woven pattern of cream-colored clouds, crimson spider lilies clustered up the front panel and across one sleeve, revealing another robe of equal beauty, and lean forward to carefully lift Hanzo with an arm around his shoulders. Despite being as thin and elegant as a reed, the kitsune lifts Hanzo as though he weighs nothing, and wraps him in their robe. The silk is deliciously warm from their body, and the warmth soothes Hanzo’s battered flesh. The kitsune gently sets Hanzo back down, letting his head and shoulders rest in their lap. “What say you? Will you give me my kiss?”

“What,” rasps Hanzo, and then has to pause for a minute to breathe through a new wave of pain, his vision tunneling. “What are the terms?”

The kitsune laughs, the sound loud and bright in the still forest. “Still thinking in contracts, I see. Very well, Shimada Hanzo. Choose an animal and when your last breath leaves your body I will remake you into that animal. When you die, I will give you this body back, good as new.”

“Any animal?” Hanzo asks, and the kitsune rolls their eyes.

Humans,” they say with mock disgust. “Something with greater spiritual worth than a fish. And you must live out its full natural life - I know what you’re thinking. No cheating me!”

“All for a kiss?” Hanzo’s voice is barely even a whisper. He is so cold, even with the warmth of the kitsune’s robe, and it’s too much effort to keep his eyes open. He lets them fall closed.

“All for a kiss, pretty Hanzo.”

He should refuse. He should refuse, and let it end here, let Genji finally be free of the past - but Hanzo is weak: he can almost smell the scent of cigarillo smoke layered over the taste of good sake, hear Genji’s metallic laughter.

“I will take your offer,” Hanzo breathes.

“What animal, pretty Hanzo?” The kitsune prompts.

What animal indeed? Greater than a fish, and better something short-lived - but it’s hard to think. Hanzo’s thoughts keep drifting, slipping away, and holding onto them is like trying to hold onto water. A bird calls, greeting the dawn, and Hanzo thinks of Genji - of his green hair when they were young, when Hanzo could still call him Sparrow.

“Bird,” Hanzo breathes, barely aware of speaking.

“So it will be,” the kitsune replies, voice ancient and powerful, and Hanzo knows the contract is complete.

Hanzo drags his eyes open when he feels the kitsune shifting, hears the rustle of silk robes. The kitsune is leaning down, their hair falling in an inky curtain around them, shutting out the forest, the rest of the world.

The kitsune’s lips are cool and smooth when they meet Hanzo’s own, and Hanzo does his best to return the kiss. If all the kitsune asks is a kiss, then his pride demands it at least be a decent one. The kitsune takes, plunging their tongue into his mouth and sealing their lips together, stealing his breath -

Literally stealing his breath, Hanzo realizes, eyes snapping open to meet those dark, glittering eyes boring into his own as the kitsune sucks the air from his lungs, and darkness creeps across his vision like frost across a windowpane.

For a brief eternity, there is nothing, nothing.

And then Hanzo Shimada opens his eyes, and screams.

Chapter Text

But the noise he makes isn’t a scream, it’s a crowing noise, and his throat is wrong - his mouth is wrong - everything is wrong, and Hanzo thrashes, blind with panic, until something gently restrains him and there’s a voice speaking to him, vaguely familiar -

“Shhh, shhhh. You’re alive still, but different,” the kitsune says, soothingly.

The restraints, Hanzo realizes, are the kitsune’s hands. Hanzo is very small, it seems. He remembers the bargain, remembers saying he would like to be a bird, and he opens his eyes, intending to look at himself - only to shut them again immediately. The world looks horribly, disorientingly wrong.

The kitsune is laughing again.

“The world is very different now, isn’t it, pretty Hanzo? Don’t worry, I have made you a very pretty bird.”

The kitsune moves as they speak, setting out at a brisk walk. Hanzo keeps his eyes closed and tries to calm himself, only to discover he has no conscious control over his breathing.

This is a better fate than death, he reminds himself grimly.

It is not very long before the kitsune slows and makes a strange yipping noise. There’s an answering storm of barking, muffled as though from inside a building. The kitsune giggles, yips again, and the barking turns into muffled howling, now accompanied by someone shouting for the dogs to shut up. Still giggling, the kitsune darts forward, dashes lightly up a few steps, and into somewhere cool and still and dry.

Hanzo opens his eyes.

The world is still disorienting and strange; dim and far, far too large. But even as the world threatens to overwhelm him, something deep inside him adjusts, and things begin to make sense. His field of vision is enormous, he realizes, and for a very brief moment he considers the advantages of being able to see like this in a battle - and then the kitsune sets him down, their robes flaring around them as they kneel, and Hanzo is mesmerized by the colors.

The colors.

He’s never seen colors like this, has no words for them, no words for the way the light reflects off the silk, or the way some things seem to fluoresce.

“Good luck, pretty Hanzo,” the kitsune says with a wink, before standing up in another mesmerizing whirl of light and color. They’re standing under the eaves of a shrine, Hanzo realizes, right in front of the bell and offering box. Even as he realizes this, the kitsune reaches up and tugs the rope of the bell, the rattling sound loud in the morning stillness. They turn to go, and then, as though struck by a sudden thought, the kitsune turns back, scoops Hanzo up, and places him on the offering box itself.

“Perfect,” the kitsune says, with a laugh that ends as a high, yipping bark - and where there was a human form, there’s now a red fox, grinning toothily. With a flip of its tail, the kitsune leaps off the shrine porch and vanishes into the forest.

A moment later the muffled barking becomes a storm of noise as two enormous dogs - or at least they seem enormous from Hanzo’s new, reduced perspective - come bounding around the corner of the shrine. Hanzo crows again, forgetting in his alarm that he can’t command the dogs to be quiet, and tries to leap up out of the way of their enormous teeth, shit shit-

Oh, he thinks, staring down at the dogs from his new perch in the rafters.

He can fly now.

An old man, bent nearly double and leaning heavily on a cane, hobbles around the corner of the shrine after the dogs, shouting at them to shut up, shut up, can’t you see the fox is gone, idiot dogs-, and Hanzo cocks his head to watch curiously as the old man suddenly comes to an abrupt stop at the bottom of the steps leading up to the haiden. The man leans forward even further, so far Hanzo is half worried he’ll fall flat on his face, and looks at something on the steps. Hanzo looks too, trying to make sense of all the excess information his eyes keep giving him. There are wet splotches on the weathered wood of the steps, and Hanzo wonders if they’re footprints left behind by the kitsune.

“Ah, so, it’s happened again,” the old man mutters, in a rural accent so heavy Hanzo has to think for a moment before he figures out what the man said. “Dear!” He suddenly shouts, “O-Kitsune-dono’s brought us another one! Come help me find the damn thing before the dogs do!”

Hanzo is so surprised by the sudden shout that he jumps, and, to his profound embarrassment, lets out a little cluck.

Both dogs look up, and one lets out a quiet whuff. The old man looks up, squinting, and sees Hanzo.

“Did the chickens get out again?” He mutters, still squinting. “No, you’re not one of ours, not a showy thing like you. Oh, you must be the poor bastard O-Kitsune-dono dragged in. Come on down, Rooster-san. You must be cold and wet and very confused.”

Hanzo is a rooster. The kitsune turned him into a chicken.

Motherfucker.

***

It turns out that the old man and his equally old wife are the keepers of the shrine, and the shrine is, in fact, dedicated to the kitsune itself. The old woman had coaxed Hanzo down from his perch in the rafters, exclaiming the whole time over his feathers (beautiful, apparently, which makes Hanzo want to preen at the same time it fills him with a sort of yawning horror,) while the old man herded the dogs back to their run and left them lying in first rays of the morning sun while the old woman brought Hanzo inside their little house.

Over a breakfast of rice, roasted soybeans, and dried sardines, served to Hanzo in a shallow dish, the old man and woman introduce themselves as Tetsu and Kiyoko Nakayama. They seem to assume Hanzo can understand them, which is explained when Tetsu explains that in his youth he spent four years as a wild boar, after a bad fall while trying to climb Mount Tanigawa would have killed him. After that, he had married Kiyoko, whose family had cared for the shrine for generations. At this point, Hanzo is treated to a lengthy digression on the subject of young people these days, specifically Tetsu and Kiyoko’s three children, none of whom have any desire to live in the mountains and clean up after a mischievous fox spirit with a penchant for turning people into animals.

They find a mirror for him too - an old, spotted thing, and Hanzo finds he has to get very close before the reflections start making sense. When they do, he almost turns and runs, but he steels himself, reminding himself that he’s the heir to a thousand years of the Shimada family, and takes a good look at himself. His feathers are glossy - he has feathers - a pale gold on his neck and chest and the silky, trailing edge of his wings, with a deep black tail that sweeps the floor behind him. He has a bright red comb, and pale yellow legs, and then Hanzo’s nerve fails him and he has to go sit in a corner of the room with his eyes closed for a little while.

After breakfast, for lack of anything better to do, Hanzo follows Kiyoko as she does the morning chores. Walking as a chicken takes some getting used to, and Hanzo falls over several times before he gets the hang of it. His tail - he has a tail - trails on the ground behind him, and every few steps he forgets it’s there, only to catch sight of it out of the corner of his eye and jump, thinking there’s something following him.

Kiyoko, damn her, laughs at him every time.

The morning chores include feeding Kiyoko’s own flock of chickens. Hanzo hangs back at first, deeply suspicious, but then Kiyoko’s rooster catches sight of Hanzo, pulls itself up very tall, and charges at him, crowing loudly.

Shut up,” Hanzo says, or tries to say, because it comes out as a crow of his own, and the other rooster goes ballistic.

Hanzo will deny to his dying day that he spends the next three minutes locked in an avian shouting match with a rooster, while Kiyoko looks on and laughs.

Eventually, he realizes that he is, in fact, arguing with an animal, and stalks off in a huff to sulk under the shrine porch. Everything is awful.

Everything is awful, and Hanzo finds himself shamefully missing his companions - Genji, and McCree, and Hana, who probably would have joined Genji in laughing themselves sick over watching Hanzo lose his composure at a rooster, and to Hanzo’s despair, he even finds himself missing Morrison, whose gruff melodrama Hanzo found barely tolerable on a good day. But today is not a good day, or even a bad day. Today is some heretofore unknown class of strange and awful and incomprehensible, and Hanzo pulls his neck in until it’s buried in his neck ruff, and crouches down further until he’s a morose ball of feathers.

He needs to get back to Overwatch, somehow. The Nakayamas have, so far, been kind, but Hanzo cannot bear the idea of living in the mountains, perhaps for years, while his companions - while Genji - go about their lives believing he is dead. Just thinking about it is enough to fill his mind with a blank panic. But the problem of how to get back to Overwatch seems insurmountable. To start with, how is he, a rooster, supposed to get back to Gibraltar? He could probably use the ancient terminal he’d seen in the house to arrange shipment of a live animal (himself) back to Spain, but once there, how would he convince his Overwatch teammates that he was Hanzo? They would look at him and see nothing but a fancy chicken.

Hanzo spends several hours under the shrine porch; sulking and mulling over his problems.

Around mid-morning, the dogs start barking again. Hanzo creeps to the edge of the porch. A few minutes later, he sees movement in the trees on the hillside below. He tilts his head, right, then left, discovering his left eye is much better for distance vision. There must be a path leading up the hill to the shrine. Hanzo wonders if he should alert his hosts to the approaching people, but then decides the dogs have it well enough in hand.

Habit drives him to seek high ground for better observation, and he flaps and hops his way to the peak of the shrine roof, where he hunkers down under cover of a decorative finial. He has an excellent view of the shrine complex from his perch - the world still looks almost unrecognizably strange through his new eyes, but up here he can at least get the lay of the land. Besides the shrine building itself and the house, there’s a few small outbuildings, and, slightly further away, a long, low mass that Hanzo guesses is another building about the size of the house. The whole complex is cupped in a small shelf of level land on the steep side of a mountain, and surrounded by the kind of forest that calls to mind words like ancient and primeval.

The footsteps and voices turn out to belong to a group of young hikers, who stop to pay their respects at the shrine, out of breath and laughing cheerfuly among themselves. They’re followed by a few more small groups. Hanzo eavesdrops shamelessly - there’s one group that is planning an ascent of Mt. Tanigawa, and three middle-aged woman that barely stop who are long distance trail runners. Hanzo is grudgingly impressed by them. Around noon, a group of Self Defense Force soldiers arrive, dropping their enormous packs and settling down around the shrine to break for lunch. Hanzo has a brief moment of panic before he remembers that the scion of the Shimada-gumi is currently disguised so perfectly not even his own mother would recognize him, had she still been alive. Feeling greatly daring, Hanzo decides to take advantage of his current state to gather intel, and flutters down down from his perch, landing near the SDF soldiers and cocking his head at them. They’re apparently in high spirits, enjoying the spring weather despite their mission, and several of them immediately start trying to feed Hanzo scraps of their rations. Hanzo stalks closer, investigates one offering, scorns the next, and soon there’s a lively competition going about who will be the first to get Ondori-taisho to take food from their hand.

I’m the scion of the Shimada-gumi,” Hanzo says conversationally, strutting through the group. It comes out as a series of clucks, and the soldiers laugh. Even their commander looks amused. “Were I not a chicken, I could kill you all where you sit,” Hanzo continues. One of the soldiers tosses him a roasted peanut and Hanzo catches it out of the air. Several of the soldiers whoop with delight, and Hanzo preens for a second. “I suppose I will spare you,” he says, eyeing the soldier who had tossed the peanut. She holds out another, balanced on the tips of her fingers, and Hanzo stalks closer, for the first time grateful for his newly increased field of vision, which makes it trivially easy to scan for threats even as he stretches his neck out and very delicately takes the proffered peanut from the woman’s hand.

There’s another chorus of whoops and cheers, and their commander cracks a smile before calling them all to order. Hanzo wanders around the edges of the group, eavesdropping on the briefing. Unsurprisingly, the SDF are here to investigate the crash of the Talon helicopter. They do not know that it was a Talon craft, or about Overwatch’s involvement, or Hanzo’s presence on the helicopter - or if they do, it’s not in the general briefing. If there are any survivors - the commander stresses that it’s a big if, since helicopters don’t generally crash with survivors - then those are their first priority. Assuming there are no survivors, then they’re there to survey the site and prepare a plan for extracting the wreckage. They leave soon after, and Hanzo returns to his perch on the roof peak to mull over this new development.

He’s barely settled onto the roofbeam when he hears the thin, chirping call of a hawk eagle high overhead, and something in his avian hindbrain screams at him to hide hide hide. Haste makes him ungainly as he launches himself off the roof, and he flaps wildly before gliding to an abrupt landing on the shrine porch. The porch is too open for his comfort, and he doesn’t relish the idea of returning to the damp, cobwebby underporch, so he ends up back in the rafters of the porch roof - high enough to feel safe, with a good view of the trail approaching the shrine, and dark enough that Hanzo can fade into the shadows.

The afternoon passes uneventfully - a few more groups of hikers, but nothing of interest - but another group arrives as the afternoon shadows begin to lengthen into evening, their pace faster than any group that day except the trail runners. Hanzo spots them by their movement first, gleaming metallic flashes between the trees on the switchback below the shrine.

It’s a few minutes before Hanzo can hear them, and then-

“Map says there’s a shrine up here,” McCree says, rough and warm, and Hanzo has never been so glad to hear anyone in his life. “Might be a good place to set up a base of operations, see if the locals know a good route to the crash site.”

“We’ll bring Hanzo’s body home,” Morrison says, in what sounds like an attempt at reassurance, and that must mean Genji’s here too-

“He’s not dead,” Genji says, the grim obstinacy in his voice so familiar it hurts. How many times had Hanzo heard that voice when they were boys?

“Genji, the scans didn’t show any signs of life at the crash site,” Morrison says, sounding tired, but Genji interrupts him.

“The dragons know,” Genji says, with the irritation of someone who has been repeating himself to a deaf audience. “Hanzo is alive.”

“And that’s why I’m here,” Dr. Zeigler says, weary and placating, “so can we save this argument, please?”

They’re almost to the shrine now. Hanzo hops down onto the shrine steps, flapping his wings and crowing as loudly as he can.

It’s me! Hanzo!

Silently, he begs Notice me, please!

It’s hard to tell people apart with his bird vision, but Hanzo is fairly sure the reddish-brown-gold human-shape is McCree. Whoever it is, at Hanzo’s crowing their eyes flash red and gold and they stop so suddenly that the shiny-green-bright mass that must be Genji runs right into them.

“Jesse, what the hell,” Genji says, confirming Hanzo’s guess.

“Genji,” McCree says in the calm, quiet tone that means he’s seriously alarmed, and points toward Hanzo. “Look over there and tell me what you see.”

“A chicken? There’s a chicken on the shrine, what-”

“Do me a favor, and ask those dragons of yours what they see.”

“Okay,” Genji says, sounding confused and like he’s beginning to get irritated. There’s a pause, and then, “Oh. Oh, shit.”

“What the hell is going on?” Morrison asks, more grumpy than usual.

“Well,” McCree drawls, “Good news is, I think we found Hanzo.”

***

There’s a lot of shouting after that, and Genji approaches Hanzo like he’s a wild animal that might spook, which irritates Hanzo enough that he jumps and flaps his way up to perch on Genji’s shoulder. Genji’s armor is slippery and hard to grip, but Hanzo is determined to make it work. He’s not an animal, he’s just temporarily shaped like one.

A few minutes later Kiyoko hobbles into view, takes one look at the group of shouting foreigners and Hanzo sitting in the middle of it, and invites them all in for tea in halting English. Her relief when Genji replies in Japanese is palpable.

Hanzo tunes out during the Nakayama’s explanation of the kitsune, having heard it all once before - and besides, the lights on Genji’s armor are driving him insane. They flicker. Surely he would have noticed if they were supposed to flicker? Was Genji’s armor damaged in the fight with Talon? But if that were the case Dr. Zeigler and Morrison wouldn’t have let him come climbing into the mountains. Though perhaps this is another side effect of being a chicken, like being able to see more colors than he had ever known could exist. He’s so caught up in contemplation of the lights that he forgets himself and pecks sharply at the closest LED.

Genji yelps and flinches at the unexpected assault, the movement dislodging Hanzo from his perch. He flaps wildly as he regains his balance.

“What was that for?” Genji asks, wounded and annoyed, but Hanzo has no answer. He’s preparing to muster his tattered dignity and stalk off to a dark corner, there to stew in his mortification, when Morrison clears his throat.

“The lights,” Morrison says. “My Ma had chickens,” he explains when everyone looks at him. “She chewed my Pa a new one when he replaced the lights in the coop with with wrong type. Said they could see the flickering and it made them aggressive.”

Everyone looks from Morrison to Hanzo, who wishes he could disappear. Bad enough that he’s a chicken, now his body betrays him as well.

“Is that the case, brother?” Genji asks haltingly, and Hanzo wishes he could shrug, anything to convey that he’s as confused as everyone else. Being a chicken didn’t come with an instruction manual; he’s figuring it out as he goes. He settles for bobbing his head in some approximation of a nod, and Genji relaxes minutely, almost like he was worried Hanzo had been angry at him. The lights on Genji’s armor dim, and the effect is far more tolerable.

“We’ll have to check the lights in the Watchpoint,” Morrison says, “make sure they’re okay-”

“Very well, but perhaps Genji could summarize how Agent Shimada came to be a rooster, for those of us who do not speak Japanese?” Dr. Zeigler interrupts.

“I didn’t catch more’n one word in five,” McCree mutters, sounding abashed at his incomprehension. Hanzo is pleased and impressed that he understood that much - McCree’s Japanese is quite good, but he’s most used to speaking with Genji and Hanzo, and for all Genji’s slang usage, both Shimada brothers had been drilled in formal Japanese since birth. The Nakayamas, on the other hand, speak with a very thick rural accent, so thick that even Hanzo has to concentrate lest he misunderstand.

“Oh, that,” Genji says with a brittle brightness that immediately puts Hanzo on edge, “Long story short, a fox spirit turned my brother into the prettiest cock.”

Hanzo feels fully justified in going straight for Genji’s face, his spurs rattling ineffectively at the metal of his brother’s faceplate, as Genji wheezes with laughter.

***

It’s full dark by the time Genji has finished with the long explanation. Morrison and McCree huddle off to one side with Tracer on the comms, discussing the logistics of hiking back to the Orca - concealed with Tracer in a clearing several kilometers down the mountain from the shrine - or camping out for the night. Tracer has picked up the SDF patrol on the scanners, which saves Hanzo the embarrassment of having to try to explain that one through avain interpretive dance, or something equally humiliating. They’re still bickering when Kiyoko approaches, using Genji’s arm for support. If she’s bothered by having a cyborg in her house, she doesn’t show it. Then again, Genji has always had the mysterious ability to charm little old ladies, even at his most rebellious.

“Nakayama-san would like you to know that they have a building for hikers to sleep in, if we would like to use it,” Genji says.

Hanzo wonders if that is the third building he saw from the shrine roof, and his guess soon proves correct.

Dr. Zeigler makes the decision for them, since she has no desire to hike through down a mountainside in the dark, or deal with the inevitable sprained ankles sure to result. Kiyoko leads them out of the cozy house, and Hanzo pauses at the threshold, taken aback by just how dark it appears outside. He can’t see anything, but no one else seems worried, stepping confidently out into the pitch black. Hanzo lets out a startled squawk as someone - Morrison - scoops him up.

“Sorry, Agent Shimada,” Morrison mutters, and then louder, to everyone else, “chickens can’t see for shit in the dark. Keep an eye out for him.” The explanation is enough to mollify Hanzo, even if it doesn’t quite wash away the sting of being picked up and carried.

 

The outbuilding that Kiyoko leads them to is built of wood in a traditional style, with a thick, thatched roof, and lit by dim, old-fashioned electric light bulbs. There are futon in a compartment at one end of the room, and outside at the other end there’s a old cedar ofuro tub. In a small nod to modernity, the tub’s original wood-fired heater has been replaced with an electric heater. Genji exclaims with delight over the ofuro, and immediately insists that they fire it up so that the rest of the party can experience a proper Japanese bath. Hanzo fights down an intense surge of jealousy: there is nothing better than a good soak in a hot bath, especially on a night like tonight when the air is damp and chilly, and here he is, feathered. There will be no baths other than dust baths in his future, and the thought is enough to make him inordinately gloomy.

He retreats inside and settles down between Genji and McCree’s futon - they had joked about sleeping back to back, “just like the old days,” and the reminder of all the parts of his brother’s life that he had missed, everything he’d done to miss those years, combines with his current state of being to sink Hanzo into a black mood.

Some time later, when everyone has finished bathing and they’re settling in to sleep, Genji settles down crosslegged on his futon. It’s another reminder of how things have changed - the Genji he remembers most clearly would have flopped down in a sprawl, but these days his brother moves with a deliberate restraint foreign to his younger self. It’s only because of Hanzo’s choice of sleeping spots that he hears Genji when he starts to speak.

“Jesse,” Genji murmurs, waiting until McCree grunts in response to continue, “the dragons know their own, but tell me, how did you know my brother?”

McCree chuckles quietly. “Deadeye’s good for more’n just killing people,” he murmurs back.

Genji only hums in response.

***

Hanzo’s mood lifts only slightly with morning’s arrival. He is, after all, still a rooster. The flight back to Watchpoint Gibraltar is uneventful, but the homecoming is bittersweet. The Watchpoint is unfamiliar to his new eyes, and enormous when he’s less than sixty centimeters tall. Winston, having already been briefed on the situation, greets the returning Orca with a modified bird band containing a chip that identifies Hanzo to the Watchpoint security systems, which at least saves Hanzo the indignity of having to crow at doors until someone else opens them for him.

His room, once a sanctuary, is now too full of reminders of the man he is no longer. Hanzo stays only long enough for Genji to feel comfortable leaving him alone before he abandons his attempts to kick the blankets into a comfortable nest and goes exploring.

Hanzo ends up, some unknown amount of time later, in the Bastion’s container garden in one of the Watchpoint’s upper courtyard areas. It’s cool and green and quiet under the plants; no buzzing artificial lights or large, fast-moving people to surprise him. Best of all, the Bastion greets Hanzo with a peaceful wee-woo and then leaves him to his own devices.

The next few days are a trial. Dr. Zeigler consults her professional network and has soon enlisted a poultry-specialist veterinarian to help her create a baseline model for Hanzo’s care and maintenance. Hanzo isn’t sure how Dr. Zeigler had explained the need for the model, and he doesn’t much care to know. If the vet’s reaction is anything to go by, he’s suddenly become the pampered pet of someone very rich, and he’d rather live in ignorance of his cover story and save the tattered remnants of his pride than know for sure.

“Oh, an onagadori!” The vet exclaims, the first time she sees Hanzo over the video connection. The name rings a bell. “They’re rare. No wonder you wanted the best care for him.” From there it descends into medical jargon, the two doctors deep in their own world, and Hanzo gives up trying to follow the conversation.

***

He spends a great deal of time in the Bastion’s garden. The Bastion had established several ground rules, with Athena’s assistance in communicating them - namely, that Hanzo could eat whatever he wanted as long as he didn’t damage the Bastions’ seedlings or kill useful insects - and after that they had enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship, one in which Bastion mostly left Hanzo to his own devices, and Hanzo kept the garden entirely free of slugs, snails, cutworms and cutworm moths, grasshoppers, locusts, and any number of other undesirable bugs, beetles, and caterpillars.

Hanzo, had, honestly, been expecting to feel more disgust at the idea of eating slugs and bugs, but faced with the choice between eating the intensely boring chicken feed that had been purchased for him and hunting his own food, he had hardly given it a second thought. Besides which, he had, as a human, already eaten and enjoyed fried locusts from street vendors in Numbani, and escargot hardly seemed that different from garden slugs. It kept him busy, which was the important part, and tasted better than chicken feed, which was a pleasant bonus.

***

Everyone is unfailingly polite and kind - so polite and kind it grates on Hanzo’s nerves - and after several well-meaning but unsuccessful attempts by various teammates to include him in conversations, Hanzo finds himself wishing they would simply all ignore him. It seems the simplest option.

Hanzo had never thought of himself as being particularly close to most of his teammates, but to his shame, he finds himself missing all the little interactions he’d taken for granted - whether it was discussing the weather forecast over tea with Dr. Zhou or smiling politely through Reinhardt showing him endless photos from his latest visit with Torbjorn’s brood, or any of the other hundred hellos or excuse mes or the simple exchange of nods between two people passing in the hallway that he didn’t think to appreciate until they were gone. Even worse are the empty spaces left that had once been filled by snarking with Genji, or most of all, the evenings spent with McCree, watching the sun set over the water and drinking. What had started as an uneasy truce when they had stumbled across each other at the best secluded drinking spot on the Watchpoint had gradually morphed into something else; the mutual desire to silently find oblivion at the bottom of a bottle shifting into a quiet regard for the other’s company. The amount of drinking had decreased, the amount of storytelling and shit talking had increased, and the quality of the alcohol had risen precipitously.

It’s nostalgia for those lost days that brings Hanzo back to their drinking spot - a small balcony in the upper levels of the Watchpoint, carved out of the rock and looking out over the water - one evening perhaps a month and a half after his transformation. He looks out across the sea, berating himself for having grown so soft as to allow an absence of conversation to throw him into despair. He survived for years on his own, and now mere weeks of semi-solitude are enough to make him mourn for lost connections like some lovesick child. Pathetic indeed. He’s so lost in self-recrimination that he doesn’t hear footsteps until McCree laughs in surprise.

“Hanzo! Hell, I didn’t see you there.” He slides down to sit in his customary spot, leaning against the wall with his long legs splayed out in front of him. “Been a while, ain’t it?”

Hanzo jerks in surprise, the motion translating into a alarmed ruffling of his feathers. He ducks his head in a nod as he recovers his equilibrium and cocks an eye at McCree. He has a bottle in his hand, the label familiar, though Hanzo hasn’t seen its like in months: Rebel Yell. Hanzo levels McCree with his best judgemental glare, and McCree rolls his eyes. They gleam strangely in the dying light, unlike those of any of the other human occupants of the Watchpoint.

“Go ahead and judge. Didn’t come up here for the company,” he says with another laugh, this one a little bitter.

Hanzo adjusts his perch on the safety railing, flapping in ungainly fashion as he turns to face McCree. One good thing about being a bird: Hanzo is now a master of the unblinking stare.

After a moment, McCree grimaces, heaves a deep sigh, and wipes a hand over his face.

“It’s been a long couple of months, is all,” he says, and then looks contemplatively down at the bottle in his hand. “Wonder if birds can get drunk,” he muses.

Several hours later, they have reached the conclusion that birds can, in fact, get drunk. McCree had stared at the bottle, stumped, for a minute before pouring some out into the cap, which worked well enough - or at least it worked until Hanzo starts feeling the effects, at which point his accuracy had gone to hell and he had started flipping the cap every other try. He’s now whiskey scented and definitely drunk, and McCree - more than a little drunk himself - has laughed himself to tears at the picture Hanzo makes.

It is not an entirely unpleasant state of affairs.

Still, Hanzo has a reputation to maintain. He takes a step toward McCree, intending to peck him for his insolence, but instead Hanzo’s legs betray him and he falls over. McCree gives one last wheezing guffaw as he reaches out and very gently helps Hanzo upright again.

“Guess we better call it a night,” McCree says, shaking his head. “Hate to say it, Hanzo, but you can’t hold your liquor anymore.” He giggles at his own bad joke, and Hanzo clucks grumpily. This time he does manage to peck McCree, landing a hard knock on his boot, but it just makes him laugh more.

McCree stands up, listing only slightly as he stretches out his back, and looks down at Hanzo.

“You want a lift?”

Hanzo doesn’t, in fact, want to be picked up, but it’s a long way to the door, and beyond the door there’s a long flight of stairs that Hanzo does not at all feel up to navigating. He sags slightly, yields to the inevitable, and looks up at McCree.

“Alright then, here we go,” McCree says as he crouches down and gently scoops Hanzo up. He takes special care to avoid crushing Hanzo’s tail, which is already noticeably longer than when Hanzo had woken up in this shape, as he arranges Hanzo in the crook of his arm.

McCree’s room is closer, and McCree, moving on autopilot, has opened the door and stepped across the threshold before he remembers that he’s carrying Hanzo and comes to a sudden stop.

“Aw hell,” he mutters, and his sigh seems to shake his whole body.

Hanzo is already more than half asleep, the middle of his three eyelids closed as he dozes in McCree’s arms. He’s warm and drunk and comfortable, and he has no desire to go back to his own, empty room, or to sleep in the nest of straw the Bastion made for him under the silvery, arching leaves of the largest artichoke plants. Before McCree can turn around and take him to his room, Hanzo regretfully frees himself from McCree’s grip, flaps awkwardly down onto the bed, and stalks unsteadily to the corner of the foot of the bed closest to the wall, where he kicks at the blankets until they please him. He settles down into his blanket nest to the sound of McCree spluttering some sort of objection - one which Hanzo summarily ignores in favor of going to sleep.

***

Weathering a hangover as a chicken is a uniquely unpleasant experience.

Hanzo wakes with first light, as he always does in this form, at first deeply confused to find himself inside instead of the garden. Everything hurts, a horrible, queasy ache he is ill-equipped to deal with, and for a moment all he can do is hunker down and regret every decision that had led him to this place.

Then the lump of blankets that had taken up most of his field of vision moves, and Hanzo remembers that he is in McCree’s bed and that shifting mass must be the man’s feet, and his utter chagrin at passing out in a coworker’s bed lends him the strength to escape. The door to McCree’s quarters opens and closes without waking him, as far as Hanzo can tell, and he plods grimly through the Watchpoint’s empty halls, talons clicking on the linoleum floors and the artificial lighting stabbing at his eyes.

He settles down to brood in the blessed dimness under what he has come to think of as his artichoke plants, digging himself into the straw piled there until only his head and long, trailing tail feathers are visible. On the way to his hiding spot he had eaten a handful of woodlice that had been making depredations on the strawberry plants, and a few of the bug-nibbled strawberries themselves, which had done a great deal to ease his discomfort, but he still feels physically awful - and more than that, embarrassed. Hanzo is no stranger to overindulging, but he has always prided himself on his control, and in no previous instance has he ever allowed himself to drunkenly invite himself into a teammate’s bed.

The sounds of Dr. Zeigler mid-harangue reach Hanzo far before the good doctor herself; her voice pitched to carry and echoing through the garden.

Mein Gott Jesse, what were you thinking, giving him alcohol?”

Whatever McCree has to say in his defense is lost, and it does nothing to deter Dr. Zeigler’s rant. The door into the garden from the upper levels of the Watchpoint suddenly slams open, and Dr. Zeigler’s voice gains both clarity and volume as she presumably storms through. Hanzo can’t see her from his lair under the artichokes, and given that she appears to be talking to McCree about him, Hanzo is happy to keep it that way.

To Hanzo’s despair, Dr. Zeigler comes stomping directly toward his hiding place, muttering angrily in Swiss German the entire way. Hanzo pulls his head down into his feathers as far as he can, and awaits his doom. It arrives in the form of an exasperated doctor with a syringe full of something foul she insists he drink - a glucose solution to rehydrate him, she explains as she directs McCree to tuck Hanzo under his arm and hold Hanzo’s head up so she can examine him.

“Sorry, Shimada,” McCree mutters, wincing in sympathy as Dr. Zeigler does her work.

Hanzo considers jabbing McCree with his spurs, but discards the idea. The situation is entirely his own fault, and it would take a braver man than Hanzo himself to defy Dr. Zeigler when she is in full rant.

***

As the months pass, Hanzo settles into his life’s strange new patterns. Boredom is his worst trial - screens are intolerable, so he can’t pass the time with reading or films, and his eyes aren’t well-suited to reading printed words either, even if he could manage turning the pages of a book on his own, which he can’t. He can sometimes pass the time listening to audiobooks, but that requires someone to navigate the screens and buttons to start the audiobook playing, and after the frustration of first few times Hanzo rarely finds it worth the hassle. But too much idleness is dangerous, as an idle mind is fertile ground for the seeds of despair.

Too much time spent idle and the little voice in Hanzo’s mind starts asking if it was really worth it, all this to prolong a life that should have been forfeit years past. He did not deserve the second chance Genji had given him, and now this - a third chance, wasted on a kinslayer?

Despite their inauspicious beginning, the evenings with McCree - less frequent now that Hanzo measures his alcohol consumption in teaspoons, but welcome nonetheless - help keep the voice at bay. McCree occasionally relates anecdotes about goings on among the human occupants of the Watchpoint, or provides rundowns of the most recent mission that Hanzo has been forced to sit out, but mostly they sit together in easy silence. It is strange, Hanzo thinks after the first few times, that McCree’s quiet companionship could so lift his spirits. He can’t remember ever feeling quite so at peace in the presence of another person. Maybe Genji, when they were young - but no, even then he had worried. Worried that Genji would get in trouble, knowing that Genji’s antics would reflect back on Hanzo. It is a curious and pleasant feeling to enjoy the company of another and feel no anxiety ether on their behalf or because of them.

***

One night in the third month after Hanzo’s transformation, a stray dog digs its way under part of the Watchpoint fence and manages to make it all the way to the Bastion’s garden before it can be caught and removed from the premises. Hanzo groggily watches the excitement from the Bastion’s shoulder, where the Bastion had carefully relocated Hanzo after Athena had raised the alert. The dog’s eyes gleam as the emergency lights blink on, catching the light and reflecting it. Hanzo watches, and wonders.

***

There were occasional moments that almost made the entire rooster thing worth it.

One such moment came some eight months into Hanzo’s sojourn. He was dozing in the dappled shade beneath the Bastion’s flourishing tomato vines when he heard rushed footsteps, and then a giggle.

Genji’s giggle.

Specifically, the giggle that Hanzo remembers from Genji’s days of sneaking trysts into Shimada castle: breathless and gleeful and not quite quiet enough to escape Hanzo’s ears. Hanzo rouses himself and stalks silently toward the noise. There’s another voice - of course - slightly lighter in pitch than Genji’s. Hanzo takes cover behind an asparagus fern, peering out through the lacy fronds. Genji has Lúcio pinned up against the wall of the garden, Lúcio’s legs around Genji’s waist, and judging by how distracted his brother and Lúcio are by each other, Hanzo could have walked right up to them without either of them noticing. Hanzo can’t roll his eyes at his younger brother’s antics, but he can do one better - and perhaps get a little petty revenge for too many things heard through Shimada Castle’s thin walls.

Hanzo gets as close as he can to the couple without breaking cover, until he’s less than a meter away but still well concealed behind the large leaves of a zucchini plant. Then he stretches out, fills his lungs, and crows as loudly as he possibly can.

Lúcio shrieks. Genji flinches so hard he nearly drops Lúcio, and starts swearing in Japanese.

Hanzo flees, cackling wildly, buoyed up by the sweet feel of revenge.

***

His constant, enforced idleness leaves Hanzo with entirely too much time to think. He doesn’t dream when he’s asleep, which is a welcome change, but instead he finds himself - not quite daydreaming, but something close, as he dozes idly in the sun. Past scenes play out before his inner eye, fragments of conversation drifting across his consciousness.

One of my cousin’s children has stolen your heart already,” the kitsune says, the scent of cedar and wet earth filling Hanzo’s senses.

What had they meant? Hanzo suspects the kitsune of speaking in poetic allusions, since he is sure he hasn’t bargained with any other kitsune. Unbidden, he remembers his lessons in classic Japanese literature - everyone’s sleeves wet with tears, and the endless morning-after poems, each alluding to other, more famous poems, until each page became a morass of footnotes and Genji had bitterly wondered how the courtiers had time to get any fucking done when they spent so much time crafting circuitous references and picking out paper to complement their messages.

Their tutor had not been amused.

Hanzo smiles internally at the memory.

Still, he wonders. And he remembers the way McCree’s eyes gleam yellow-gold when they catch the light, and he wonders again.

Surely - but no. No, that is only wishful thinking on Hanzo’s part.

***

Hanzo’s tail feathers, already long when he woke up as a rooster, keep growing. Dr. Zeigler, after consulting with her colleague the vet, explains that this is a characteristic of the onagadori breed, of which Hanzo is now one. He can expect his tail feathers to grow up to 10 to 13 centimeters a month, she informs him, and grow they do. By six months, they’re trailing beautifully behind him as he struts through the halls of the Watchpoint. At eight months, Reinhardt calls them “magnificent.” At a year, they trail more than a meter behind Hanzo as he walks, and he hates it. They’re unwieldy, and in the way, and people have stepped on them more than once.

Genji, who still hasn’t forgotten the crowing incident, compares Hanzo with his tail to a Heian lady with her hair, and then gleefully pulls up examples of Heian art to illustrate his point: ladies in many-layered robes with their hair pooling on the floor around them. Hanzo stalks out of that gathering with as much dignity as he can, though the effect is somewhat ruined when McCree has to reach his arm out and stop the automatic door from sliding closed on Hanzo’s tail feathers.

Hanzo plans his revenge carefully this time: when he settles down to roost for the night, he makes sure he’s as close as possible to Genji’s window. It’s a warm spring night, and Genji sleeps with the window open.

Hanzo starts crowing before the first hint of dawn lightens the sky, and continues crowing until Morrison sticks his head out of a window one floor up and growls, “Back on the farm, roosters that didn’t shut up got turned into soup,” before slamming the window shut.

Hanzo crows again, just to drive his point home.

“Every half hour,” Hana says, deeply aggrieved, when Hanzo joins the rest of Overwatch for breakfast. “Every half hour exactly, starting at 3:45, oh my God, I hate you.”

“TBH, I’m impressed you were that accurate,” Lúcio says with a yawn from where he’s slumped against Genji. Hanzo actually likes Lúcio, and feels briefly bad for disturbing his rest - but then again, he is sleeping with Hanzo’s younger brother, so he probably deserves it.

“It’s like y’all’ve never heard of ear plugs,” McCree says. He’s leaning against the counter, sipping his coffee and he sounds cheerful and well-rested. “Vital equipment,” he continues, amused. “Got in the habit of always keepin’ a few pairs handy back when I was running ops with Reyes. Man snored like a water buffalo with a broken nose, goddamn.”

Morrison snorts. “You got used to it,” he mutters.

“Maybe you did,” McCree replies slyly, eyes flashing that curious gold again, “but I never did. Couldn’t sleep in the same room as him without ear plugs. Hell, one night he woke me up from the next room over. Thought someone was tryin’ to saw through the wall at first, ‘fore I realized it was just Reyes snorin’ like a buzzsaw.”

The conversation shifts away from Hanzo after that, moving to noisy snorers various agents had known - apparently Dr. Zhou’s grandmother had snored like a man twice her size, and Reinhardt as a child once thought his father’s snoring was a bear trying to get into the house.

***

McCree takes to spending downtime in the Bastion’s garden, going so far as to have a set of deck chairs delivered to the Watchpoint so he can lounge in comfort while working on his tablet or sleeping with his hat pulled over his face. Hanzo expects the Bastion to object, but McCree buys the robot off with the purchase and installation of a heated bird bath for Ganymede.

Hanzo feels like he’s living in a Studio Ghibli film. The saccharine sweetness would disgust him, except he’s forced to admit to himself that the company is not unwelcome. Just as when they drink together, McCree is mostly quiet, never asking more conversation of Hanzo than Hanzo can easily give.

Perhaps - just perhaps - there is something more going on than wishful thinking on Hanzo’s part.

***

One late summer morning a year and a half after his transformation, Hanzo is in the garden, enjoying hunting the few straggling locusts that had made their way across the Straits from Morocco. Locusts are one of his new favorite foods; pleasantly crunchy and conveniently full of protein. The Bastion is alternately watering the plants and being distracted by picking locusts off said plants and flicking them far into the distance. Dr. Zhou is taking advantage of the weather and enjoying her morning tea outside, at the table that had appeared to accompany McCree’s deck chairs, and Morrison is pretending to read reports but actually dozing in the sun. It’s a pleasant morning, made all the more so by the presence of McCree sitting in a patch of sun, picking out tunes on the guitar he’d recently picked up. He claims to have played in his youth, and given that he seems more rusty than unskilled, Hanzo suspects he is telling the truth. Every so often McCree hums along to a half-remembered tune, or sings a few bars. It is - nice, Hanzo thinks. More than nice, even.

Finally satisfied that he remembers the song, McCree starts playing in earnest, his low voice brimming over with suppressed mirth as he launches into a half-spoken song, something about devils and United States geography; Hanzo isn’t really paying attention to the words.

Morrison jerks awake and whips around to look at McCree.

“Jesse, I swear to God,” he splutters, before he’s cut off by Dr. Zhou bursting into giggles.

“I’d need a fiddle to do the next bit proper,” McCree says in an aside, then launches into the chorus, Dr. Zhou unexpectedly providing backup vocals.

Fire on the mountain, run boys run,” the pair sings with more enthusiasm than skill, “Devil’s in the house of the Rising Sun.

Hanzo is so focused on listening to McCree and stalking his prey that he doesn’t notice the rustling of wind through feathers until it’s too late.

Something slams into him, pinning him to the ground, claws like steel bands around his body and talons tearing into him. He hears, distantly, the alarmed beeping of the Bastion, Dr. Zhou screaming, and McCree shouting, but they seem very far away as he struggles weakly against the - bird, he realises, he’s pinned down by a giant bird, that’s a huge, hooked beak coming at him -

For a brief eternity, there is nothing, nothing.

And then Hanzo Shimada opens his eyes, and screams.

Chapter Text

Or at least, he tries to scream. In actuality, he opens his mouth, takes a deep breath, chokes on a piece of leaf, and doubles over into a coughing fit.

He’s human again, he realizes. He’s human and he’s sitting on the ground under the cedar tree he last remembers dying under. There’s a fading echo of laughter in the air, and Hanzo lifts his hand to his lips, dogged by the feeling that someone has just been kissing him.

He takes his first deep, unencumbered breath, and feels his dragons’ wild exultation fizzing in his blood. I released you, he thinks, stunned but delighted, and receives the distinct impression that two ancient and powerful spirits are rolling their eyes at him. Hanzo supposes he has not drawn his last breath after all, so the words were moot. Thank you, he thinks, grateful beyond words that his companions have not abandoned him.

Hanzo sits up, and discovers two things: one, that the kitsune seems to be enjoying one last joke at Hanzo’s expense, because his hair is so long it reaches to the ground when he’s sitting; and two, that his clothes are nearly a complete loss.

He combs his fingers through his impossibly long hair, tugging at the snarled mess of twigs and leaves and grime, grimacing at the feel of grease and dried sweat. He’s disgusting. He stands, finding to his disbelief that his hair now reaches past his waist, to the point where the curve of his buttocks meets the top of his thighs, and the grey at his temples makes silvery streaks all the way to the ends. Hanzo sighs. He suspects it’s an allusion to the length of his tail feathers as a rooster, but it’s a weak joke at best. At least it saved him the trouble of trying to grow out the undercut. Still, his vanity wishes the grey wasn’t quite so apparent.

Soaked in rain water, sweat, and blood, and subjected to effects of eighteen months of - suspended animation, Hanzo supposes - his clothes are grimy enough to make his skin crawl and the fabric has even rotted away in some areas. He strips out of them as fast as he can, shuddering at the sticky feeling of old sweat still on his skin, and is intensely grateful that the kitsune’s robe, still wrapped around him when he woke, is untouched by time or dirt. The mud and dried leaves slide right off the fabric when he shakes it off, leaving it pristine; indigo silk along the shoulders, fading in a gentle, ink-wash gradient to the palest gold at the hem, adorned with tiny stars embroidered in gold and silver thread, a few white moths floating across the fabric, and at the hem, golden blades of grass, so that the wearer might appear to be walking through knee-high grass at sunset.

Hanzo frowns - that doesn’t seem right - and shakes his head. His recollections of the kitsune are blurred by time and impending death, and he has more important things to worry about. Like finding the shrine, and contacting Overwatch.

With a shrug, he slips the kitsune’s robe on and belts it with his hair ribbon, which had escaped unbloodied and mostly unscathed. His modesty thus preserved, he folds the remains of his gi and hakama into a tidy bundle around what personal effects had survived the ordeal, and uses his bloodstained obi to tie everything into a bundle for easy carrying.

Finally, he looks around. It’s some time between late afternoon and early evening. The forest is deep and green, cool under the ancient trees, even when an errant breeze brings with it a breath of late-summer heat. The towering cedar, dressed in its shimenawa, is at his back and a tiny path - more of an animal track than anything - stretches out in front of him, following a ridge that runs parallel to the main slope of the mountain. Hanzo sets out along the trail, the forest floor soft and pleasantly damp beneath his feet. Soon enough he comes in sight of the shrine complex; the trail he follows approaching it from the side, snaking along the mountain rather than climbing it.

To Hanzo’s human eyes, the shrine is very small and somewhat shabby - the thatching ragged, the orange paint on the torii faded and beginning to crack. There’s a young woman in the robes of a shrine maiden with a broom in front of the shrine building itself, but instead of sweeping she’s leaning on the broom and looking at something on her phone. A grandchild of the Nakayamas, Hanzo guesses. His bare feed render his approach silent, and when he stops a few meters away the girl still hasn’t noticed him. He clears his throat to get her attention.

The girl looks up and stares, jaw dropping and phone slipping from fingers gone slack with shock. At the last second, she flails, catches her phone, and bows, blushing furiously.

“O- O-Kitsune-dono?” She stammers, as though she doesn’t quite believe what she’s saying.

Hanzo blinks, realizing that dressed as he is, in a gaudy robe of fabulous beauty, with his long hair wild and loose, barefoot - he does perhaps present an eccentric, if not downright mythical, appearance.

“Ah - no,” he replies. “I am human. Shimada Hanzo, pleased to make your acquaintance.” And then, because this small taste of civilization has made him pathetically eager to be back in contact with his teammates, he asks: “Do you have service here?”

The girl stares at him for a long moment, looks at her phone, then back at him.

“No?” She says, “There’s wifi? It’s really bad.” She shakes her head a little, like she’s clearing it, and visibly composes herself. “Nakayama Chihiro. Nice to meet you, Shimada-san. May I assist you somehow?”

“I am looking for the keepers of the shrine - your grandparents, I think?”

His guess is correct, and Chihiro leads him back to the house, where both Kiyoko and Tetsu are delighted to learn that Hanzo was the rooster with all the strange Western friends. Tetsu slaps Hanzo on the shoulder with surprising strength for someone so old, and declares that he’s going to fire up the bath. Hanzo can’t think of anything that sounds more welcome at that moment than scrubbing himself off, and says as much.

Tetsu laughs loudly. “I know, Shimada, I know. Took me a week of soaking before I stopped stinking like a boar.”

Hanzo catches Chihiro rolling her eyes like she’s heard this story before and doesn’t believe a word of it, but then she glances and him and her face turns thoughtful. Which reminds Hanzo - before he can bathe, he has business to take care of.

“May I use your phone for a moment?” He politely asks Chihiro, who obliges him by passing her phone over after only a moment's hesitation. Hanzo downloads a secure messenger app - not as secure as he would like, but he has neither the time nor means to set up a proper multi-level encryption on what is a patently unsecure consumer device - and types the recipient number in from memory. It’s an anonymous account monitored by Athena, for times when Overwatch agents need to send a message and don’t have their own comms. He stares at the blinking cursor, wondering what to write. He doesn’t want to send his location in plain text - and then he remembers the song McCree had been playing in the garden, just before Hanzo had died again, and smiles.

»Rooster’s in the house of the Rising Sun

He sends it, and then adds, as an afterthought:

»Bring clothes
»Please

That should be enough. Satisfied, Hanzo uninstalls the app and hands the phone back to Chihiro with a shallow bow.

“My thanks,” he says, and smiles.

“Oh! It’s not a - you’re welcome,” Chihiro stammers out, and then flees with the excuse that she needs to finish sweeping.

***

The bath is quite possibly one of the best moments of Hanzo’s life, up to and including most of his sexual encounters. There’s a deep, visceral pleasure that comes with vigorously massaging shampoo into his scalp and all the way down to the tips of his hair, and he can’t help the noise he makes when he dumps water over his head and imagines months of grime washing away.

Eventually he’s clean enough to get into the ofuro, and he groans shamelessly as he slips into the steaming hot water. He slides down until he’s submerged up to his ears, tipping his head back to let the heat prickle at his scalp, and resolves to stay in the bath until his skin turns wrinkled and pruney, or Overwatch arrives, whichever happens first.

It starts to rain after a while, a gentle drizzle. The air smells like damp earth and trees, and Hanzo, warm down to his bones and utterly content, looks out at the dark trees and lets himself relax. For the first time since waking up under the cedar, he feels human again. His mind wanders, flitting from one thought to another without settling for any length of time. It feels like it’s been an eternity since the morning spent hunting locusts in the Bastion’s garden, when in reality it’s been only a few hours.

The Bastion’s garden. Hanzo idly wonders what kind of bird it was that killed him - an eagle, perhaps? - he is not familiar with the bird life of southern Spain. He winces a little when he thinks of his teammates, the Bastion in particular, forced to watch a predator rip Hanzo apart in front of them. He probably owes them all alcohol, or perhaps some of that fancy estate-grown Yunnan black tea that Dr. Zhou likes. What does one get as an apology gift for a pacifist murder-robot? He has the imo-shochu for McCree, at least, that will do well enough.

McCree. Hanzo’s thoughts stutter, swirl, and settle. He’s pathetically eager to see McCree again, to see if whatever they’ve been building these many months is indeed what Hanzo wants it to be. Hanzo gives it less than even odds that McCree will be with the group that comes to retrieve Hanzo - Genji, almost certainly, Morrison very likely given his perhaps understandable obsession with leaving no agent behind, but McCree - Hanzo is too personally invested to make an unbiased call. He imagines McCree stepping off the transport, or Hanzo stepping off the transport in Gibraltar, it doesn’t matter, imagines walking right up to McCree - the daydream stumbles for a moment as Hanzo fails to think of what he would say, but he recovers, thinks of taking McCree’s face in his hands and instead of speaking, simply kissing McCree until Hanzo gets his point across.

It’s a tempting fantasy, and an unexpected twist of desire stabs through him at the thought. It’s also a fantasy for another time and place, Hanzo thinks as he viciously squashes the daydream before he can embarrass himself further in a stranger’s bathtub.

Hanzo does, finally, have to drag himself out of the bath, but only when he’s starting to feel a little dehydrated and lightheaded from the heat. Dusk is just beginning to fall, still easily light enough to see. Hanzo wishes briefly that he had an ETA for Overwatch, and then dismisses the thought - no point in worrying when he can change nothing - and instead concentrates on drying off and getting dressed. Tetsu had found an old under kimono for Hanzo; the silk a little musty from storage but clean, printed with a rather loud design of blocks of vertical stripes in brown and blue alternating with blocks of tree-filled mountain landscapes. Hanzo looks at the two kimono together and winces at the clashing patterns - but at least the collar of the under kimono is a solid indigo, and that it all that will be seen. Besides which, given outrageous gaudiness of the kimono itself - if it wasn’t cut like a man’s kimono, Hanzo would have taken it for a young woman’s formal kimono - mismatched collars are the least of his worries. He finishes dressing and ties his damp hair up to keep it from dripping down the back of his clothes, and then frowns when catches a glimpse of himself in the small mirror hanging near the ofuro. Between the flamboyant kimono and the long hair, all he needs is the makeup to make a convincing onnagata.

His timing is perfect; Kiyoko has just finished dinner when Hanzo returns from the bath, and the house smells mouthwateringly of fresh rice and something savory. Kiyoko orders Hanzo into the seat of honor at the table, and he exchanges a few pleasantries about the weather with Tetsu while Chihiro carries bowls of tonjiru to the table, a hearty pork and vegetable soup flavored with miso and topped with fresh grated ginger and in this case, a sprinkling of shichimi togarashi, seven-spice chili powder. It’s not something that Hanzo has eaten very often - too rustic to make it onto the menu during his childhood, and during his years in exile Hanzo had rarely had the luxury of eating fresh cooked food - but he waves away Kiyoko’s attempted apologies at the simplicity of the fair, thanking her for feeding him at all. Kiyoko herself presides over the rice, proudly proudly served from an satiny-black earthenware pot that has the look of a treasured, oft-used heirloom.

The first bite of tonjiru is almost enough to bring Hanzo to tears. The pork and miso together make a salty, savory, umami-rich broth set off to perfection by the ginger’s bright sharpness and the heat of the shichimi. The pork is tender, the carrots and daikon both sweet enough to offset the salt, the gobo and shitake mushrooms adding a pleasing earthy component to the dish, and the taro a pleasant heartiness. Even the konnyaku, devoid of flavor on its own, adds something: a textural element otherwise lacking among the vegetables. Hanzo takes another bite, and then another, and then has to stop and breathe through this absurd urge to weep into his soup.

“Ahh, it takes you that way, doesn’t it?” Tetsu says, noticing Hanzo’s distress.

“The food is very good,” Hanzo says, when he has mastered himself again. He inclines his head toward Kiyoko. “My thanks to the cook.”

“No no, it’s only simple country food,” Kiyoko protests modestly. “Anyone could make it this way, the secret is the vegetables.”

“She grows them all herself,” Tetsu says fondly.

Hanzo manages to eat half his tonjiru while they discuss the safe topic of gardens. Hanzo allows that he has a friend who gardens and Kiyoko is so delighted that she insists on sending Hanzo home with seeds for his friend - her favorite varieties, the seeds saved from her own garden. Hanzo wonders if the Bastion would grow daikon and gobo, and whether he could convince someone - Dr. Zhou, perhaps, she knows how to cook - to make tonjiru, before he cuts that line of thought short. It is an idle fancy, nothing more, and hardly important.

It’s the rice that does Hanzo in. He has so grown accustomed to the single servings of precooked, shelf-stable, microwaveable rice that he’d lived off of during his exile, and which he and Hana keep stocked in the Watchpoint pantry that he had forgotten what real fresh cooked rice tastes like. He’d forgotten that rice actually has a flavor beyond starch, and he’d forgotten the perfect chewiness of properly cooked rice, each grain distinct yet still gently sticking to its fellows-

Hanzo is horrified to realize here are tears sliding down his cheeks. He, Shimada Hanzo, is crying over a bowl of rice. He stuffs another bite in his mouth as he stifles a sob, and tastes salt.

His dignity will never recover.

Nevertheless, the food is so good that Hanzo has a second helping, and then a third - at which point he’s reached a state of comfortable over-fullness that is his body’s sign to stop before he makes himself sick. He excuses himself with some regret, though he does take Kiyoko up on her offer of tea, and retires to the porch with a cup of hojicha to sit and think and watch the stars come out.

It’s almost autumn in the mountains, and the night is chilly, but not unpleasantly so. Hanzo is comfortable in his two layers of silk, with a cup of tea to warm his hands. The mountain air is crystal clear, and this high up there’s almost no light pollution. The stars are gorgeous, a hundred thousand crystal pinpricks in the night sky. Hanzo rarely has time to admire the night sky in a place with such a fine view of it, and he savors the sight even as he savors his tea.

The flight time from Gibraltar is around thirteen hours, give or take depending on who’s piloting, and there’s no guarantee that the Overwatch rescue that he assumes is coming left immediately. It could be well into tomorrow before they arrive, which means he will need to make sleeping arrangements. He hopes the building for housing hikers is empty, as he doesn’t relish the idea of sharing space with strangers.

Hanzo has finished his tea and is just preparing to go inside when the croaking call of a jungle crow floats down from somewhere above him.

“Hello, Genji,” Hanzo says - it’s far too late for crows to be out and about, and they used to use bird calls as signals. Hanzo isn’t sure crows even live in the mountains.

Genji drops silently down from the roof, the lights on his armor flaring green as he stands.

“Hello, Brother,” he replies. He cocks his head in a considering motion. “You seem well. I like the new look - very flashy.”

Hanzo sighs, but is saved from having to respond by the sudden appearance of Hana, who had apparently been on the roof with Genji.

“Yo,” she says, greeting Hanzo with a mocking salute and a mischievous gleam in her eye. “Heard you needed clothes. You’re in luck! We were at my agency, and we were promoting my new clothing line, so I grabbed some for you!”

She’s carrying a bag, which she holds out to Hanzo: a black paper shopping back emblazoned with D.va’s signature hot pink bunny logo, and absolutely encrusted with rhinestones. Hanzo accepts the bag with murmured thanks and a deep sense of foreboding. He opens the bag, and yes, his dread was justified: Hana picked out for him a pair of black track pants with bright pink stripes up the sides, rhinestone bunny-shaped snaps, and a giant, graffiti-style D.VA logo on the ass, along with a hot pink tank top with a holographic bunny on the chest.

“You’re here earlier than I expected,” Hanzo says as he pulls the track pants on under his kimono.

“We were in Korea. I was providing security,” Genji explains. “There’s a stealth transport in a holding pattern waiting to pick us up-”

“Calling it now,” Hana interjects, holding her comm up.

“-that will take us back to Gibraltar,” Genji finishes.

Hanzo nods, having in the meantime stripped off his kimono and put on the tank top. After a moment of consideration, and because it’s chilly, he drapes the kitsune’s robe around his shoulders, then folds the borrowed under kimono and puts it into the bag Hana had brought.

“I would like to pay my respects at the shrine before saying my goodbyes,” he says.

“I will join you,” Genji replies.

“Cool, Imma chill and catch up on the internet,” Hana says, already deep in her comm.

Together Hanzo and Genji make their ablutions before the shrine, ring the bell, and offer their separate, silent prayers to the kitsune. Hanzo has nothing with which to make an offering, but he resolves to make a hefty donation to the shrine when he is back at the Watchpoint. It has been a long time since Hanzo has stood side by side with his brother at a shrine, and the memories that crowd around are bittersweet.

The Nakayamas are confused when Hanzo returns to the house to announce that he is leaving and thank them for their hospitality, and their confusion only grows when first Genji appears to offer his thanks for looking after Hanzo, and then, with a muffled roar and the sudden shock of spotlights illuminating the front yard, Hana’s promised transport arrives.

“Important man, Shimada-san, eh?” Tetsu says, looking dubiously up at the military craft hovering above the shrine complex.

Hanzo makes a moue of distaste. “No longer,” he replies, and bows to his hosts.

Hana has already boarded the transport, and Genji is waiting, gripping the rappeling cable dangling from the belly of the beast. Hanzo rolls his eyes, but steps onto Genji’s feet, locking his arm around Genji’s neck and allowing himself to be carried up as though he’s incapable of rappelling into a hovering aircraft on his own. He supposes he can forgive Genji the dramatics, given that Hanzo still has no shoes.

The flight back is long and boring, as flights are. Genji keep remembering things to tell Hanzo, as if he’s been absent for a year and a half, and then remembering that Hanzo was there for whatever Genji meant to tell him about, and lapsing into silence again. Hanzo tries to pass the time by dozing, but mostly fails. He feels rejuvenated, and the simmering excitement of being back in his body keeps him awake.

Eventually Hanzo gives up on sleep entirely and slumps in his seat, wishing they were in the Orca, with its much more comfortable accommodations.

“Mahjong?” Genji suggests.

“With two players?” Hanzo asks, the lingering frustration of being unable to sleep making him grumpy.

Which is how Hana spends the rest of the flight teaching Hanzo and Genji how to play Korean mahjong, all three of them bickering endlessly and making frequent reference to their comms, as Hana can play but isn’t familiar with the minutiae of the rules. Hanzo and Genji, on the other hand, learned Japanese mahjong in smoky back rooms from people who would exploit every obscure rule to their benefit. It certainly passes the time, even if it makes Hanzo crave a cigarette - and judging by the way Genji keeps chewing on the corner of his lip, it’s having the same effect on him.

The arrive in Gibraltar mid-morning local time. Hanzo is holding onto a thin lead in mahjong, while Genji and Hana viciously battle for second place.

“I demand a rematch,” Hana says as they dissolve the hardlight tiles and buckle in for landing. “You, you, and me: mahjong night. Next week.”

“That is a bad idea,” Genji says serenely. “Hanzo gets competitive.”

“Speak for yourself,” Hanzo says mildly. Of the two of them, Genji used to be better at mahjong. Hanzo suspects that had they been playing by Japanese rules he would not have won.

“Nope, it’s happening, and I’m getting Mei in on it too. She plays online, we were talking about it a while ago.”

They’re interrupted by landing before Hanzo can convince Hana that making mahjong nights a regular event is a terrible idea that will most likely end in bloodshed. There’s a crowd waiting at the edge of the landing zone, everyone gathered to welcome Hanzo back. He collects more hugs and backslaps and heartfelt handshakes than he has in the entire time he has been working with Overwatch, and probably the ten years before that as well. It’s overwhelming.

McCree hangs back until most of the others have had their chance with Hanzo. He ambles forward, and Hanzo freezes, his earlier daydream returning full-force - but he can’t kiss McCree, not here, not as overwhelmed by human contact as he is now - so he settle for returning the handshake-hug combination McCree pulls him into. Later, he thinks. There will be time later.

He escapes to his room after the welcoming party is satisfied, and takes a hot shower - not so much because he needs one, as because he can, and changes into something less pink and sparkly. The rest of the day is spent catching up; cleaning the dust off every flat surface in his room, doing laundry, making a hefty donation to the kitsune’s shrine (enough to fix the roofs and upgrade their wireless and still have a great deal leftover,) and finally, delivering Kiyoko’s gift of seeds to the Bastion, who is delighted by the seeds and pleased to see Hanzo back - though perhaps slightly less enthusiastic about him than the seeds. Hanzo can’t decide whether or not to be insulted, and in the end settles on amused.

By the time dinner rolls around, Hanzo is beginning to feel the effects of not sleeping during the flight. He eats with his teammates, but begs off due to tiredness when Reinhardt proposes an ice cream and movie night. There’s a general chorus of regretful understanding as Hanzo says goodnight. McCree had left even before Hanzo, slipping out midway through dinner with few the wiser. If Hanzo’s hunch is right - well, he hopes he’s correct.

Back in his room, Hanzo collects the bottle of imo-shochu and two tumblers. He pauses at the sight of the kitsune’s robe draped across a chair, hesitating for a moment before he sets the bottle and glasses down, and puts the kimono on, draping it casually over his shoulders. The gaudiness is growing on him, and the weight and whisper of the silk pleases him. That done, he retrieves the imo-shochu and tumblers, and goes in search of McCree.

Hanzo finds finds him in their usual drinking spot, smoking a cigar and staring moodily out over the sea.

“Good evening,” Hanzo says, and McCree jumps.

“Goddamn, I’m out of practice listenin’ for you ninja-types,” McCree says with something Hanzo thinks is false cheer.

Hanzo hadn’t bothered to put on shoes, and his bare feet carry him silently across the floor, the only sound of his passing the hush of his kimono as it flares with his motion. He sits crosslegged next to McCree, arranges the kimono around him, and leans back against the wall, setting the bottle and glasses down next to himself.

“I had hoped I would find you here,” he says.

“Did you now,” McCree replies, not quite a question.

“Yes,” Hanzo says simply. His hair has been bothering him all evening - he had tied it up, but the weight of it is giving him a headache - so he unties his hair ribbon and lets it fall loose around his shoulders, sighing with relief. McCree makes a tiny noise, but when Hanzo glances at him, his face is guarded and his eyes are distant.

Hanzo opens the imo-shochu, pours for both of them, and wordlessly offers it to McCree. He holds his own glass without sipping, swirling the liquid as he watches McCree take the first sip, watches McCree’s eyebrows go up and a look of surprised delight cross his face.

Well now, that ain’t half bad,” McCree says with sincere appreciation.

“Imo-shochu,” Hanzo says, taking a drink. Bolder than his preferred mugi-shochu, a little smoky, but quite tolerable. “I thought it might be more suited to your barbaric tastes than sake.” He’s smiling as he says it, and McCree takes the insult in the spirit it was offered, chuckling quietly.

“It’s a damn sight better’n your usual swill,” he says cheerfully, grinning at Hanzo’s snort of mock-offense. “Goes down real smooth. Don’t tell me you pulled over to pick this up on your way back.”

“No. I procured this bottle several weeks before my... transformation.” Hanzo is watching McCree as he speaks, and sees the split-second look of surprise that crosses McCree’s face. “When Genji and I were children,” Hanzo says, “our father used to tell us stories of dragons, and gods, and sometimes even kitsune. Those kitsune were usually beautiful, cold women who stole men’s hearts and then left them.”

“Did yours?” McCree pauses, and then continues, “Steal your heart, that is.”

“No,” Hanzo says again. “I asked if that would be the price - my heart for my life - but the kitsune said no. They said my heart had already been stolen, by their cousin’s child.”

McCree is silent, watching him. Hanzo meets his eyes squarely, and he doesn’t think that it is just his imagination that McCree’s eyes gleam gold for a second.

“I did not know what the kitsune meant,” Hanzo continues, “but I have had a great deal of time to think since then. So tell me, McCree, how you came to be Coyote’s child.”

McCree smiles, slow and satisfied and warm as a desert sunset.

“Why Hanzo Shimada, are you sayin’ I stole your heart?”

“Yes,” Hanzo replies with a smile of his own.

McCree moves, throwing a knee over Hanzo so he’s straddling Hanzo’s lap, hands on Hanzo’s shoulders as he leans down to bring their faces together.

“Darlin’, I’m delighted to hear you say that,” McCree says, sliding his hands across Hanzo’s shoulders and up his neck. Hanzo tips his head back, luxuriating in the feel of McCree’s hands slipping into his hair.

It doesn’t take much to pull McCree - or Jesse, Hanzo supposes, given their current familiarity - down into a kiss, just one hand sliding around the back of Jesse’s neck and exerting the slightest hint of pressure. Hanzo gets his other hand on Jesse’s ass, solid muscle and fat, supremely satisfying to dig his fingers into and squeeze, like he has wanted to for months before. Jesse’s predilection towards chaps was nothing short of torture, but his ass lives up to its promise.

Some time later, Jesse pulls back with a groan. “As much as I’d love to continue, sugar, my knee’s about to give out.”

Hanzo snorts, resting his head against Jesse’s collarbone for a second before he pushes Jesse off his lap. They take a moment to collect themselves, and Hanzo pours them both another finger of imo-shochu.

“I would still like to hear how you became Coyote’s child,” he says, leaning companionably against Jesse’s shoulder.

Jesse groans. “I was hopin’ you’d forgotten about that,” he says mournfully. “How’d you figure it out, anyhow?”

“There are relatively few canine trickster spirits, and given the area in which you grew up, Coyote seemed the most likely,” Hanzo replies. “That and when I was a rooster your eyes reflected yellow-green.”

McCree makes a considering noise at that. “I’ll be damned. They still do that?”

“Not as much,” Hanzo says with a shake of his head. Truth to be told, he misses it a little.

“Well alright, I guess I owe you a story, but remember, I was a dumbshit kid back then. Now, growin’ up where I did, you hear a lot of Coyote stories, and I guess I heard more’n most, since my mother had Navajo on her father’s side. So I got it into my damn fool head to go on a vision quest - keepin’ in mind that we didn’t talk to my grandad’s side of the family, so most’a what I knew about vision quests and such I learned from movies that knew as much about real Native beliefs as I do about particle physics. I got high as a kite and wandered out into the hills and just as the sun was setting and the high was startin’ to wear off and I was beginnin’ to think maybe dyin’ of dehydration wasn’t such a great idea, I stumbled across a campfire, and an old Navajo Park Ranger sittin’ next to it. He told me I was an idiot, and I allowed as how maybe I was, and he gave me some water, and to cut a long story short, he pulled out a deck of cards and we started playing poker. I realized pretty quick he was cheating somethin’ fierce, so I started cheating right back, and pretty soon - well, he bet his eye against mine, and when I won that hand he popped his eye right out and all the hair on the back of my neck stood up.” Jesse pauses to take another sip of his imo-shochu, and taps his right eye. “It’s how come I got this, and a few other tricks besides. Scared the shit out of me, I’ll tell you that.”

“That is how you knew who I was, when you saw me as a rooster,” Hanzo says, putting two and two together.

“Sure was.”

Hanzo hums thoughtfully, and they finish their drinks in silence.

“Gettin’ late.” Jesse says finally, looking down into his empty glass and rolling it so it catches the last rays of the setting sun.

“Indeed,” Hanzo replies serenely. He stands, offering Jesse a hand and hauling him to his feet as well. “I propose we retire to your room for the night and... enjoy ourselves.”

Jesse’s answering grin is positively salacious.

“Sweetheart, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.”

Jesse’s room is still the closest, so the choice is an easy one. The walk side by side at a sedate pace through empty hallways, Hanzo carrying the bottle of imo-shochu and McCree the tumblers. He should be impatient, he thinks, but he isn’t. The evening feels like it has reached a point of inevitability, like Hanzo couldn’t stop what’s coming even if he wanted to - and he doesn’t.

There’s a moment, after they enter McCree’s room and set down what they’d been carrying, after Hanzo slides the kimono off his shoulders and drapes it over the back of a chair, when they look at each other and time stretches out, long and slow and sweet as each waits for the other to make the first move. Hanzo breaks the spell, exhales and shakes his head at his own foolishness. He steps forward and lets himself do exactly as he had imagined, catching Jesse’s face in both hands, bringing him down to Hanzo’s height so Hanzo can kiss him gently, sliding his hands into Jesse’s hair as he responds.

Jesse wraps his arms around Hanzo, pulls him closer with an arm around his waist, and rests the other on his shoulders, warm and heavy. Hanzo pushes into that warmth, smiling when Jesse doesn’t give an inch - it’s one of the things he likes about Jesse; the way he settles himself and becomes a solidly immovable object, ready to take on the world. It makes Hanzo want to push, to set himself against Jesse and see who comes out on top. It’s an appealing thought, and judging by the way Jesse returns the smile and stands firm against Hanzo, it’s not an idea he would object to. Something to explore later, Hanzo thinks. Tonight he wants something different; wants closeness and contact; wants to ground himself in this body.

“Wanna move this to a bed?” Jesse asks quietly. Hanzo feels his voice as much as hears it.

“Yes,” Hanzo replies, and Jesse chuckles fondly.

“Always appreciated your directness, even if I didn’t like what you were sayin’,” Jesse murmurs as he sits down on the edge of his bed.

Hanzo doesn’t bother to reply, though Jesse saying anything nice about him is always enough to light a candleflame of warmth beneath his breastbone, choosing instead to straddle Jesse’s lap and kiss him again, enjoying his new height advantage. Jesse’s hands are wandering, brushing across Hanzo’s waist, his ass, tangling in his hair and tugging gently. Hanzo digs his hands into the meat of Jesse’s shoulders, savoring the swell of desire that pushes aside the fog of tiredness from his mind.

His body chooses that moment to remind him that no matter how much Hanzo wants this, he’s still physically exhausted - he pulls back from Jesse just as he’s overtaken by the irresistible force of a jaw-cracking yawn. Jesse laughs.

“My apologies. It has been a long day,” Hanzo says grumpily, but Jesse holds him back with a gentle hand on his chest when Hanzo tries to continue the kiss.

“Darlin’, if you just wanna sleep-” Jesse starts, but Hanzo cuts that nonsense off before it can go any further.

“No,” he says firmly, and then he takes a breath, bracing himself, “I want to continue. I want this. You.”

“We can keep it simple,” Jesse says, amusement in the lines around his eyes.

“That-” Hanzo starts, but he’s cut off by another yawn. “That may be wise.”

Jesse soothes the sting of frustration at his body’s betrayal by sliding his hands under the hem of Hanzo’s tank top and pulling it off. Hanzo moves off Jesse’s lap and stretches out on the bed, propping himself up on his elbows to watch as Jesse unceremoniously pulls his shirt over his head and leaves his pants on the floor. He’s all muscle and scars, so similar to Hanzo and yet so different - Hanzo will admit to some vanity in maintaining his own sculpted muscle mass; Jesse, on the other hand, has strength without the bodybuilder’s attention to definition. It’s a good look, Hanzo decides, full of smug satisfaction that Jesse is here for Hanzo to admire.

“Enjoyin’ the show?” Jesse asks with a grin, hands on his hips as settles his weight onto one leg. His hands, Hanzo cannot help but notice, are placed so that his fingers draw the eye of the beholder directly to his hard, eager dick.

“Yes, very much,” Hanzo replies, still smug. He wriggles out of his own pants, kicking them to the floor. Hanzo is pleasantly aware of Jesse’s eyes on him, of the quiet smile playing around the corners of Jesse’s mouth, so he indulges his vanity and stretches as he flexes, showing off.

“Pretty as a picture,” Jesse says, voice low and rough, taking the two steps over to the bed.

Hanzo’s mind, ever unhelpful, catches on picture, and dredges up images of shunga, old erotic woodblock prints. Hanzo isn’t sure what his face does, but it’s enough to make Jesse raise an eyebrow.

“What?”

“Later,” Hanzo mutters, trying to banish the images from his mind. They’ll get a good laugh out if it, he’s sure - despite the subject matter, he’s never found shunga titillating; too distracted by the contorted positions and the tendency towards unfortunate over-endowment of the male parties. It’s not something he wants to explain during sex. “Come here,” he says instead.

Jesse complies easily, crawling onto the bed and flopping down next to Hanzo so they can kiss again, warm and still easy despite the growing sense of urgency. Jesse props himself up on one elbow after a moment, burying his free hand in Hanzo’s hair and spreading it out across the blankets. It tumbles and twists like twining river channels at the mouth of a delta, spilled ink shot with silver.

“Gorgeous,” he murmurs. He meets Hanzo’s eyes after a moment. “Know you’re prob’ly going to cut it, but you look real nice like this, darlin’. Gonna appreciate it while I can.”

“I hadn’t thought about it yet,” Hanzo says, surprise making him honest.

“Well, don’t feel you have to keep it on my account,” Jesse says, leaning down to kiss him. Hanzo makes a noncommittal noise into the kiss - he truly hasn’t decided what to do with his hair, but it’s a nice feeling to know Jesse likes it.

One kiss leads to another, and it’s good - so good, the near-forgotten pleasure of trading breath as he lets his hands wander across another body, of feeling Jesse’s hands on him - and yet Hanzo finds himself fighting the urge to close his eyes, burrow into Jesse’s warmth, and fall asleep. He makes a noise, exasperated with his body’s failings, and pushes at Jesse’s shoulder as he heaves himself up. Jesse ends up flat on his back, grinning at Hanzo looming over him.

“I fear I may fall asleep if I remain lying down,” Hanzo mutters by way of explanation, as Jesse runs his hands soothingly along his hips and thighs.

“Darlin, I definitely ain’t objectin’’,” Jesse says, and laughs when Hanzo rolls his eyes.

Hanzo’s hair is annoying him, half over one shoulder and half in his face, and he sits up for a moment to deal with it, realizing only when he tips his head back and combs his hands back through it that he’s giving Jesse something of a show - Jesse’s whispered “Goddamn,” tips him off - and then he smirks and lingers through twisting his hair into a loose knot at the nape of his neck to keep it out of the way. Jesse looks a little like he’s been hit in the head when Hanzo is done, but happily so.

It’s all for nothing - as soon as Hanzo leans back down over Jesse, trailing a hand down Jesse’s chest, his hair comes right out of the knot and tumbles down over his shoulders, hanging like thick, dark curtains around their faces. Hanzo sighs, but Jesse catches his wrists before he can move.

“Leave it,” he says softly. “For me? It’s like there’s just you and me left in the world.”

“You are an incorrigible romantic,” Hanzo says, but he’s smiling as he says it.

“Guilty as charged,” Jesse says grinning widely. “Now what say we get this show on the road?”

“That was less romantic,” Hanzo replies dryly. It doesn’t stop him from kissing Jesse again, just because he can.

Jesse seems to take that as permission to finally get his hand on Hanzo’s cock, and when Hanzo gasps he can feel Jesse’s answering grin against his lips. He pulls back a little so he can look down at Jesse, at the flush spreading down across his chest. Hanzo braces himself with one hand and traces his other down the edge of that flush, down to Jesse’s own cock, blood hot, hard, and velvet-soft in his hand. There’s an awkward moment as their hands bump against each other, before Jesse lets go for a moment and Hanzo grasps their cocks together. Jesse’s hand returns to help, and the need that had been simmering quietly in Hanzo’s blood boils over.

It’s warm and humid from their shared breath in the dim world bound about by the the curtain’s of Hanzo’s hair. Jesse’s left hand cradles Hanzo’s face, and Hanzo turns his face into it, lays a kiss on the metal palm. He chases his pleasure almost without thought for Jesse, selfish suddenly now that the goal is in sight. It’s still somehow Jesse who comes first, back arching as he moans, head thrown back and eyes flashing gold.

It’s the gold that does Hanzo in - a sharp and unexpected stab of pleasure at the sight that twists through him and leaves him gasping, doubled over with his forehead resting on Jesse’s shoulder.

“Damn,” Jesse says breathlessly a few moments later. “Well, that was a damn sight better’n how I thought this evening was goin’ to go.”

“I concur,” Hanzo replies as, with a heroic effort, he rolls off Jesse and flops onto his back. Lust satisfied, he wants nothing more than to sleep, but he rouses himself enough to find his shirt and wipe himself off before pulling his briefs back on.

“You thinkin’ of stayin’?” Jesse asks, carefully offhand.

Hanzo looks at him sharply. “I’m not moving unless you kick me out,” he says.

“Well, I ain’t kicking you out,” Jesse says, sounding pleased.

Hanzo moves out of the way as Jesse wrangles the bedclothes into something resembling order and falls into bed next to Hanzo.

“C’mere,” Jesse says fondly, wrapping an arm around Hanzo and hauling him in close. Hanzo goes easily, giving in to his earlier desire to chase Jesse’s warmth as he burrows his face into Jesse’s chest. He dimly registers Jesse saying goodnight, and mumbles something probably incoherent in response, but he’s comfortable and the exhaustion is kicking in with a vengeance.

His last coherent thought before he falls asleep is that his hair is going to be a disaster in the morning, but he’s too tired to care.

***

Hanzo’s hair is, in fact, a disaster; reaching new horizons in tangled bedheaded mess. Jesse laughs long and hard, and there’s a brief wrestling match over Jesse’s comm when he tries to take a photo for posterity, that devolves into more kissing and ends with blowjobs.

Afterwards, Jesse makes Hanzo kneel on the bed and stands behind him, meticulously combing out the tangles, until Hanzo’s hair once again hangs straight and gleaming, andt Hanzo has gained a new appreciation for why cats purr when petted. His whole body feels loose and warm and humming with the kind of animal pleasure that makes him want to stretch out in a sunbeam and possibly rub his face all over Jesse.

“Keep doing that and I will never leave,” Hanzo says, half-drunk on endorphins, as Jesse runs the comb aimlessly through his hair. It no longer catches on tangles, so Hanzo suspects Jesse may just be enjoying himself.

“Darlin, I’m yours as long as you want me,” Jesse says. “I woulda done this for you even before all the chicken bullshit, but that got me thinkin’, and it’s more than just wantin’ to brush your hair or fuck-”

“I know,” Hanzo reponds, gently disengaging Jesse’s hands from his hair so he can turn around and stand, facing Jesse. “I feel the same.”

After that, it seem like the most natural thing in the world to kiss the smile that blooms on Jesse’s face.