“Okay, McCree. Just relax. You can do this.” McCree’s words sounded silly even to his own ears. He was a longtime member of a highly classified black ops team. He’d participated in espionage, dangerous infiltration missions … He was the (second) best shot in the whole organization! He was good at his job, and his job was very, very high pressure.
It was just … Confessing to Genji that he was kind of, sort of, maybe a bit in love with him was ever so slightly higher pressure. He didn’t think he was being unreasonable in thinking that, either. Genji was his best friend. Genji meant the world to him. And for a long time, he’d pretty much been Genji’s only friend in return. He was the first one to get him to open up, the first one to get him to take a day off - Genji was doing better the longer he was with Blackwatch, but McCree knew he still trusted him above anyone else. What if he ruined that?
“Can’t think that way, pardner,” he told himself, taking a breath. “Ya just gotta do it.” He must have looked odd, talking to himself in an empty hallway, clutching a stuffed pachimari to his chest. McCree was always a fan of gift giving, so he knew he had to have something when he talked to Genji. He didn’t want to go with anything extravagant or obviously romantic. Genji didn’t seem the type to be a fan of something attention grabbing, and McCree didn’t want to put a lot of pressure on him.
Hence the pachi. He knew Genji adored the little critters. It was some kind of special edition line, supposed to look like little animals. The pile in the store had little pachimaris with tiny horns and cow spots, oversized bunny ears, all the cuteness possible. As far as McCree was aware, Genji was a cat person, so the little pachi he’d picked out with the big, triangular ears and the curled kitty mouth seemed perfect. He probably would have bought it regardless, because he’d been searching for a Christmas present, but this was a good use of it too. Hell, he’d have probably bought it even if it was the middle of June. It made him think of Genji too much not to.
“Alright. Okay. You can do this.” He turned the corner with purposeful strides. He bumped directly into another body, and they both stumbled back. His cheeks flushed with embarrassment when Genji raised his eyebrows at him.
“What are you doing, McCree?”
This whole thing had begun some weeks ago. It began, like a lot of new feelings had a tendency to, on a mission. They were in Canada, nothing too crazy, just gathering intelligence. The trail after their target led them out into the wilderness. They got the information they needed, but …
McCree sighed as his fingers left his earpiece. “Looks like transport won’t be comin’ until tomorrow. The blizzard’s too bad to fly.”
“Fantastic. At least we are indoors.” Genji glanced around their little residence dourly. An old cabin out in the woods, specifically, where their target had hidden his files. Not hidden them well enough, but it was certainly an interesting choice. The wooden floors were dulled from years without polishing. Much of the furniture was covered in a thick layer of dust. The generator had long run dry, depriving the building of electricity. Their target didn’t actually live there, so there wasn’t a scrap of food in the kitchen, but any mission that led them away from civilization demanded they bring their own supplies. So, no big deal.
Genji dropped his backpack on the moth-eaten rug and went to peer out of a window. It was already frosting over as snow fell in heavy clumps outside. Thick clouds blocked out the moon and the stars, draping the pale landscape in darkness, the only hint of color in the otherwise bone white view the stretching forest of evergreens.
“You do have a heater, don’t you?” He asked, looking over his shoulder at his companion.
“Yeah, a’ course.” McCree set his backpack down and bent to dig through it, pulling out a small, white cube with rounded edges, roughly the size of a square Roomba. He pressed a button on top and set it on the scuffed floor, and as a friendly blue LED glowed to life, the portable space heater rose just a couple inches into the air and began outputting a gentle heat, bobbing like a rubber duck in a bath. They wouldn’t freeze to death.
They had a dinner of water and dried out rations. McCree kept twisting a packet of powdered coffee between his fingers, considering trying to brew some up, but there was no obvious way to heat it and he was in no rush to experience tepid coffee in the middle of winter. He stuffed the packet away for later consideration.
An old grandfather clock (that Genji’s holopad told him was almost two hours slow) ticked away in the corner of the room. There was, obviously, no internet connection so far out of the way, so the holopad only lit Genji’s face for a few minutes as he tried to find something to do before he put it away with a sigh and resigned himself to simply sitting, curled up in the ancient, lumpy armchair. It had been dark since they’d arrived, but the cabin only seemed to grow darker and other than the glows from the heater and their electronics, there were no light sources to brighten it. McCree pulled a flashlight from his backpack and rose from the couch. He nudged the heater along with his foot as he headed from the room.
“Grab the backpacks, would ya? There must be a bedroom we can bunk down in.” The living room/kitchen area that made up the bulk of the cabin was too open to keep a lot of heat in, and McCree’s displeasure with that was obvious.
Genji had never known a man to despise temperatures below ‘mild’ more than Jesse McCree. Commander Reyes, who had grown up under similar hot and sunny conditions, was a close second, but even he would happily bundle up and head outside to experience the first snow of the year on base. Getting McCree out in the snow was like getting a cat into a bath. Oh, you could do it, but he’d complain the entire time and bolt at his first chance. He was more of a ‘experience winter through a window with a mug of something hot in his hands’ kind of man. Genji was sure their dinky little portable space heater wasn’t doing enough, in McCree’s opinion, but he was also sure McCree wouldn’t say anything about it. For as whiny as he was about the cold on base, he tried not to lower the morale on missions by complaining.
McCree, for his part, was just glad there was a bedroom. If they shut the door tight, their miniature heater might stand a chance of actually warming the place up some, and he wouldn’t have to sleep in his coat and boots. The bed was large enough for two, but there was still only one. Neither of them minded. They’d slept in closer quarters before. McCree tossed away the dusty comforter, too ratty and full of holes to be of any use anyway, and stretched the thinner blanket beneath out over the mattress to cover the odd stains. Yuck.
“Here,” McCree said, handing him the old comforter. “Stuff that in the crack under the door to keep some of the heat in.” As Genji did that, he went digging through their packs to pull out the two standard issue blankets. Not too bulky, needed to conserve space. Not extremely warm either, unfortunately. There were insulated emergency blankets, if necessary, but no one liked sleeping under that crinkly metallic material. McCree stretched both blankets out on the bed and reluctantly slipped his boots off his feet and his heavy coat off his shoulders. When his pants joined the pile on the floor, he dashed for the bed to get in under the covers, but the mattress was as cold the wooden floor, and he just huffed in disappointment.
Genji shed his own layers in less of a rush. “Let’s try an’ get some sleep,” McCree mumbled as he reached to flick the flashlight off. Genji’s gentle footfalls against the wood sounded almost loud in the quiet of the room. The only other noises were the soft creaks of the house settling as the wind gusted angrily outside and the ever so subtle hum of the hovering heater. He crawled into bed with his friend.
The room wasn’t so cold. Genji was more tolerant of lower temperatures than McCree, certainly, from some combination of his upbringing and, perhaps, having less pieces to him that could get cold in the first place. McCree always complained, especially, of cold feet.
Cold temperatures had their own effect on Genji, often worsening his usual aches and pains, but that was less something he noticed after just one night in the cold. Long winters in Switzerland were another matter he’d have to look forward to in the coming months, but just this one night in a chilly cabin in Canada wasn’t so bothersome for him.
They laid in the same direction on the bed, so Genji was left to stare at McCree’s back in the darkness. His bunched shoulders held no secrets. Genji watched. It was impossible not to notice the slight tremble in his muscles as he curled more tightly in on himself.
McCree tensed in surprise as he felt Genji press against his back. Before he could even open his mouth to question it, a quick explanation was murmured against his ear, “You’re cold.” The warmness of Genji’s breath against his winter-nipped skin almost made him sigh.
McCree almost always left the initiation of touch up to Genji, as the other man was particular about it. Sometimes even fingertips brushed against his shoulder would be jerked away from, while other times he wanted to mold his body around McCree’s like an attention-starved cat. McCree hardly ever minded such closeness, especially not when, yes, Genji was right. He was cold.
“Thanks.” He received a reply in the form of Genji humming in acknowledgement. Genji’s nose nuzzled against the nape of his neck. His arms wrapped around McCree’s chest, and he tangled their legs together. McCree stretched an arm back to card his fingers gently through Genji’s hair, how he knew he liked, and left the other hand to rest gently over one of Genji’s as it curled into the fabric of his uniform.
“I feel like we’re in a Hallmark movie.” McCree chuckled.
McCree tipped his head back to look at Genji, meeting the other’s glowing eyes. “Like … A really old, cheesy holiday movie. When I was a kid, I had this foster mom for a while who was this really old woman, an’ she was nostalgic for them from her childhood, I guess, ‘cause she left ‘em runnin’ in the background the whole winter I lived with her. I dunno if they make ‘em anymore.”
“And the premises of them were …?”
“Really straight, usually, for one. An’ usually involvin’ some city slicker learnin’ the true meanin’ of Christmas, oooh .”
Genji blinked at him. He lifted up the blankets to look beneath them.
“What’re you doin’?”
“Trying to figure out where you’ve hidden the lights. Obviously if this is anything like one of those movies, we have to go decorate one of those trees outside so you can teach me the true meaning of Christmas in November . We’re not straight, so it seems like we’re already at a disadvantage based on your explanation. We’ll have to work quickly.”
McCree burst out in laughter, hands pushing Genji’s down to the bed to stop his sarcastic search for cleverly concealed holiday decorations. “Hang on, hang on, let me get to the next part, an’ then it’ll make sense.”
“Do tell.” Genji smirked.
“So, at least half the time, to force the love interests to spend time together, they get snowed in somewhere.”
“Oh, I see,” Genji chuckled. “I assume the explanation for them being snowed in together is rarely ever that they’re committing espionage.”
“No, but that would be a better explanation than most of the actual ones.” They laid in cozy silence for a few long minutes after that. McCree’s eyes fluttered shut, and Genji almost thought he’d fallen asleep, until his lashes lifted just a little as he peeked up at him. “Thank you,” he murmured again. “Without you … My whole dick probably would have frozen off.” The utter warmth and sincerity in his tone had made Genji’s heart feel warm at first, but the contrast they provided against his actual words had childish laughter bubbling up in Genji’s chest. He broke down into a fit of giggles, and it was so utterly infectious that before long, McCree was laughing, too.
There was just such a simple joy in losing it over dick jokes and bad movies, McCree almost completely forgot about the fact they were holed up in a shitty old cabin in the middle of a blizzard. If he tuned out the slight scent of mildew that permeated the whole place and ignored the stiffness of the mattress, it almost felt like they were just some happy couple, snuggling up together in the middle of a storm, holding each other, making each other laugh.
As their laughter died down to just giggles, McCree found himself gazing into Genji’s eyes. The crimson glow of them had long become a sight of comfort to him, and the softness he found there as they looked at each other did something strange to him.
He looked away quickly in surprise as his heart gave an eager flutter. Oh. Oh . Uh-oh. The sudden knot his stomach had tied itself into felt surprising and expected all at once. He was caught off guard, but he thought he shouldn’t be. Oh shit, he was in love with his best friend. Of course , he was in love with his best friend. It was like trying a puzzle piece you didn’t think would work, then just blinking in confusion when it fit just right.
He tried not to think too much of it. “G’night, pardner.”
He thought altogether too much of it in the coming weeks. Every time he met Genji’s eyes, he found himself entranced by the dangerous possibility of it. Could they … ? Would Genji want to? His decision to ignore it lasted only a couple of days, until he realized how much it made his heart ache.
Regardless of the possibility of it being unrequited, he had to say something. He knew Genji could tell there was something strange in the air between them since the mission, and he didn’t want to leave that sort of thing unspoken. It felt like something that could easily turn into an issue if Genji was left to wonder why McCree was acting strange around him since an otherwise normal and successful outing.
He didn’t think he would have to do it so suddenly though! Genji was looking up at him in confusion. His eyes lowered to the stuffed toy held tightly to his chest, and his eyebrows only raised higher. He thought he would have a moment before knocking on Genji’s door to think of a good first thing to say, as it had so far escaped him, but with Genji staring at him, he just did the first thing that came to mind and shoved the pachimari into his arms.
“This is for you!” A beat of silence. Genji’s cheeks turned rosy.
“You know Christmas isn’t for almost a month, right?” Neither of them were exactly crazy about celebrating the holiday, but the Commander always invited them to come spend it with his family, so the exchange of small gifts had become a normal part of that.
“It’s not a Christmas present,” McCree said. “It’s just a regular present. ‘Cause I saw it, an’ I thought you’d like it. Do ya like it?”
“O-of course,” Genji said, looking down at the kittymari. He was a touch flustered by the unexpectedness of it. He stroked his thumb along one of the triangular ears, and his eyes crinkled at the corners in a way McCree knew meant he was smiling beneath his mask. He looked up to find McCree staring at him with a sort of starry-eyed eagerness. He looked like an awestruck puppy. “... Was there something else?”
“Oh! Yeah, um …” McCree closed his eyes and took a steadying breath. “So, that mission we went on.”
“Are you finally going to tell me why you have been acting so odd since we got back?”
“Yes. Uh, well -” He swallowed nervously. “When we was snowed in, an’ we cuddled up in bed together, y’know, for warmth.”
“Well, remember, we kept jokin’ back an’ forth, an’ you started laughin’, an’ I just … I was lookin’ at you, an’ I had this thought.”
Genji dared to step a little closer to him. His fingers curled a little tighter around the toy. “What was your thought?” He softly asked.
Jesse was quiet a moment. “That I, uh, that I like you. A lot. That you’re really special to me. In a different way than I thought before. Y’know, it’s …” Genji nodded, just the tiniest bit, just the smallest motion of encouragement. “In … More of a romantic sense, if ya get me.”
Back in the cabin, those weeks before, so occupied with his own sudden, perfect, terrifying realization, McCree hadn’t been very observant. He didn’t notice how his partner’s eyes had widened, just a little, before snapping suddenly away in the same fashion his had. He noticed it now though, as he spilled his heart to him, how Genji’s eyes grew softer with every word. Genji squeezed a little tighter on the toy he was holding, and they both jumped when it gave a loud, cheerful squeak!
The two of them melted into nervous laughter, the tension relieved. McCree said, “You ain’t gotta feel the same way or nothin’. Really, I understand if you’re not … Ready for that kinda thing. Or if ya just don’t feel the same way about me. I just needed to say somethin’, I …” His words trailed off as Genji carefully removed his facemask, wordlessly. Genji pulled himself up onto his tiptoes and tugged McCree down to close the few inches of their height difference, and he kissed him.
It was soft. Nothing too passionate or heated, but sure all the same. Steady. McCree’s hands flexed in surprise at his sides, then, ever so gently, lifted to let his fingers wrap around Genji’s waist. It was tender and warm and everything a kiss between them should have been, built up to with years now of a friendship full of something sweeter and more passionate bubbling just below the surface. Jesse would have been fine if they had only ever been friends. It didn’t matter how Genji was in his life, just so long as he was. But this felt right.
When Genji broke the kiss to breathe, the two of them smiled at each other. McCree’s heart fluttered with such a new excitement, like he’d never kissed someone before. The hand on the back of his neck slid around to cup his jaw, and Genji’s thumb stroked gently over his cheek. “It’s too early, but Merry Christmas, Jesse.”
McCree’s lips split into a grin. “Merry Christmas, darlin’.”