The retrieval team took three and a half hours to find them, riding in hellbent with every available gun that Olivia could scrounge together -- which, given the circumstances, was way, way more than Jesse expected. Of course, being Olivia, she didn’t scruple about the origins of most of the backup and the number of lies she told to get it saddled up and rolling without the immediate exchange of vast sums of cash would probably constitute some form of mortal sin subject to immediate damnation, not that she cared in particular about that, either. That was the nice thing about Olivia: she was pragmatic and when someone said right now and bring everybody she took them at their word and didn’t waste any time dithering about the ethical conundrums.
Midway through hour one, Hanzo began shivering uncontrollably and no amount of effort on Jesse’s part gave him any comfort, no matter how close he held him, as the curse started eating into the core of his being. The sounds that made it past Hanzo’s lips would have broken the heart of a colder man than Jesse ever claimed to be, tiny mewls of pain that only stopped when he began fading in and out of consciousness.
For the best part of the next hour, while Hanzo drifted halfway between death and worse-than-death, Jesse prepared for the inevitable. Tore the bloodstained sheet that Hanzo came wrapped in to strips as even as he could make them, braided lengths together for makeshift but reasonably strong rope, bound Hanzo’s wrists crossed together behind his back while he was too unconscious to put up a fight, and his legs together at the ankles and the knees. There wasn’t enough sheet left by the time he was done that to attempt binding his jaw, and the lag in his fingers told him the internal batteries of his arm were rapidly reaching the end of their current lifespan. He used what remained to get himself comfortable, back against the rounded wall of the kiva, Hanzo’s almost-still body cradled against him between his legs, in the crook of his locked-in-place by battery failure arm.
At the beginning of hour three, Hanzo stirred, took a last shallow, gasping breath, and went still. The last beat of his heart echoed like thunder in Jesse’s ears and, for the next little while, he thought fixedly of nothing, refused to look at what the curse was doing to him, counted his own breaths until Hanzo shivered back to something less than life. A jerk, like the shock of waking from a dream of falling, a handful of helpless twitches, Hanzo’s cool silken hair brushing the underside of his chin, against his neck, and now the mewls passing his lips were the hungry sounds of a newborn monster.
“It’s okay, darlin’,” Jesse breathed, used his good arm to adjust their positions slightly. “You’re okay. Cursebreaker’s on the way, I promise.”
Silence, and stillness, for a long, long moment. And then, Hanzo’s voice, thin with all kinds of pain. “ Jesse. ”
His eyes burned and his throat ached and it took him an unpardonably long time to regain the use of his voice. “I’m here, darlin’.”
Hanzo writhed helplessly against him, almost thrashing, and it was only his wasted, drunk-almost-dry weakness that let Jesse keep his grip. “Hurts -- it hurts --”
“I know, baby, I know.” Low and soft and soothing, and his stroked his free hand through Hanzo’s hair, left it cradling his cheek. “Won’t be much longer now. Help’s on the way, I --”
“ You promised. ” The agonized betrayal in his voice hurt worse than anything that had come before. “You promised me.”
“I know. I’m sorry. I couldn’t --”
The top of Hanzo’s head connected with the bottom of his chin with a force that could legitimately been described as tongue-amputating, had his tongue been between his teeth at the time of impact. It had the additional less than salubrious effect of slamming the back of his skull into the (hard, rock) kiva wall, setting off a genuinely spectacular fireworks display inside his head, slackening his grip enough for Hanzo to --
Roll out of it. A part of him, the part that had expected the next thing he felt to be Hanzo’s fresh, sharp young fangs digging into his throat, reeled back in surprise. The rest of him, likewise in shock, tumbled back as Hanzo kicked him away, knocked the breath quite efficiently out of him. Hanzo’s eyes were shining solid crimson, wild with fear, with pain, face a mask of anguished hunger, as he tried to writhe away without the help of any of his limbs. “Stay back. Stay back. I don’t want --”
“Easy,” Jesse wheezed once he got enough of a lungful of air, freshly rebruised ribs registering their dissatisfaction with this state of affairs as he got to his knees, reached out a comforting hand. “Easy, darlin. You ain’t gonna hurt me and I’m not gonna hurt you, I swear to you --”
“You swear. ” Hanzo spat, eyes flashing, and was that a hint of gold he saw there? Jesse devoutly hoped it was. “ You promised you wouldn’t let this happen to me.”
“Darlin’,” Jesse began, voice cracking. “I’m sorry.”
The anger -- the just and righteous fury in Hanzo’s face -- softened, the bloody light drained out of his eyes, but his teeth stayed long and sharp, drew out the sibilants of his next words. “So am I. I shouldn’t have asked you.”
“The cursebreaker’s comin’, darlin’ -- you just need to hold out a little longer,” Jesse eased forward on his knees, reached out again, not quite touching. “I swear to you, we’ll make this right. We’ll --”
He caught the glint of waning lamplight on silver at the same instant Hanzo did. One of his precautions: setting Peacekeeper well out of easy reach, on the far side of the room. Hanzo’s gaze fixed on it -- and then he moved.
Maybe drained-dry-weak was an underestimation of his condition, or else the ropes weren’t as strong as he thought they were, because they shredded apart with a twist of his wrists, the flex of his legs. He had his long-clawed hand around Peacekeeper’s grip and was bringing the muzzle into position under his chin as Jesse tackled him and what ensued was less an elegant disarmament effort than a vicious brawl, aided and impeded by ropy-uncertain muscles, half-dead weakness, an arm that didn’t want to work properly. Jesse managed to get the less useful of his arms hooked around Hanzo’s middle and pinioned him in place while their hands scrabbled in the dirt and stones and sand, Peacekeeper’s shiny-lethal length skittering away from both of them by a chance blow. Hanzo howled in frustration as Jesse wrapped him up, rolled them both further away, tried to take his wrists in hand, and failed. Hanzo’s elbow found a home in his solar plexus and set up shop as though it wanted to stay there, slamming into place once, twice, forced the air out of Jesse’s lungs and himself loose.
Jesse punched him. The look on his face -- stunned, immoderately affronted by the indignity of it all -- would have been comical had the situation not been so dire. But it kept him from reaching the gun first.
“Jesse,” Hanzo rolled to his knees, split lip so dry it wasn’t even pretending to bleed, eyes wild, “Please. Please. You have to --”
Jesse set his jaw, pulled the trigger, fired the single round in Peacekeeper’s cylinder into the ground. “No. No, I do not.”
Hanzo piled into him, shrieking, and only reflexes honed over years of hunting things like his lover was becoming got his otherwise useless left arm up in time to block him, fangs grinding on metal as they went down together. That and the fact that Hanzo was reaching the end of his newborn strength, the ferocity that, under other circumstances, would have let him hunt and kill for the first time without fear or pain or conscience. It left him all at once as Jesse rolled them over again, pinned him beneath his greater weight, gathered him close and cradled him as he sobbed helplessly, curled against the sandy floor.
“ Over here!”
The voice filtered down from above, unfamiliar but close, making it through the ringing in Jesse’s ears occasioned by using Peacekeeper’s voice in such a tightly enclosed space. Dust and bits of debris rained down, as well, as whoever was up there turned their hand to dragging open the trapdoor.
“Jesse?” Olivia -- that was Olivia, and his insides went giddy with relief to hear her. “Are you down there, hermano? ”
“ Yes. ” Jesse croaked. “Please fuckin’ tell me you brought Angie.”
“Of course I brought Angie, what kind of half-trained idiot d’you --” She peered into the pit through the aperture overhead, electric purple hair significantly less objectionable a sight than Genji Shimada’s acid green, and also nowhere near as completely up-side-down. “Oh, holy -- you have a vampire down there with you.”
“No.” Jesse snapped. “Not yet. Get Angie here now.”
It took them a good long while to find a ladder and the one they came up with had seen better days, lashed together from stripped lengths of pinon tied together with rawhide, all of which creaked as though it was about to fall apart even under Olivia’s slight weight, much less Angela’s, weighed down as she was with a full medical pack. Olivia took up station at the base of the ladder, grim-faced, weapons in hand, the faint curl to her lip and the drying blood splashed on her leathers giving some hint as to what it had taken to find them.
Angie Ziegler, full-blooded hexenjaeger , born with the cursebreaker’s gift and a medical doctor besides, took one look at the bloody, dusty pair of them and said, softly, “Jesse, I --”
“I know.” Jesse shifted his grip, held Hanzo a little tighter, though he was no longer resisting in the slightest. “We both know. He doesn’t wanna go on like this, Angie.”
“I would hear that from him before we begin.” Angie replied, gently, even as she tugged off her gloves, exposing her slender hands, scarred with the rune-marks that let her focus her gift best.
“It’s true,” Hanzo’s voice was reedy, thin, exhausted. “I asked him. He promised he would. And he wouldn’t let me do it myself. Asshole.”
“ Erstaunlich. ” Angie muttered, mostly to herself, and came closer, knelt, took Hanzo’s face in her hands. “You are very strong, to keep so much of yourself even now, despite the power of the curse upon you. Even so, when I break that curse, your life will end. Do you consent to this?”
“ Yes. ”
Jesse closed his eyes, and even so that wasn’t enough to block out the light that shone from her in the moment, warm and sweet and golden. Against his will, it washed through him, gentle and cleansing and healing, and even the closed eyes weren’t enough to keep the tears from welling past his lashes. Hanzo went still against him again, his head falling back out of Angela’s hands to rest on Jesse’s shoulder, the last of the tension, of the unnatural life, draining out of him. Light and life and hope faded slowly and they knelt there afterwards, Angie reaching out to take his useless left hand between both her own as he wept quietly into the sleek, dark length of Hanzo’s hair.
“I am so sorry, Jesse. I know you --” She stopped, her breath caught audibly, and he looked up in time to see the shock on her face.
In his arms, Hanzo stirred.