Well I’m runnin’ down the road tryin’ to loosen my load,
Got a world of trouble on my mind…
The chilling blast of the air conditioner sent small shivers dancing over McCree’s arms. He sat in his rig, enjoying the rumble of the engine and the sway of the suspension. The smell of pine filled the cabin from his newly purchased freshener. He picked up a small handful of sunflower seeds from a large bag, popped them in his mouth, and set to separating the kernels from the shells.
The Mojave Desert was a beautiful beast, deceptively barren yet brimming with its own hidden life. McCree loved this stretch of dirt, the cloudless sky a gentle reminder of his own humility, if he could bring himself to think that way. He picked up a plastic cup and spit the empty shells into it.
A road sign for a gas station and diner grabbed his attention and McCree soon found himself taking the next off ramp towards the stop. He could stand to stretch his legs a bit. It’d also been a while since he last had a mark to pursue, maybe he’d catch wind of some rumors.
McCree pulled into a nice empty stretch of the parking lot and killed the engine. He unplugged his phone from its charger and checked to see if he’d missed anything since early that morning. One text from Reyes, a follow-up on his last mark, said he should be expecting to see a chunk of change in his more private bank account by the end of the week.
Life wasn’t so bad for him these days. He spent the majority of his time on the road, taking in the fine American landscape and enjoying the easy solitude. Reyes would send him some names, McCree would listen in on rumors, some shmuck would end up hog-tied in the back of his rig, and they’d collect a little extra cash for their troubles.
It was a good life. Easy.
McCree shrugged on his dusty denim jacket and adjusted his hat as he hopped out of the truck, taking a moment to stretch. He slapped a hand onto his stomach, grumbling a little when he noticed it was thicker than it used to be. Price of the job, but damn. Kicking his boots in the dirt, he turned towards the diner, figuring he’d earned himself a decent meal.
The bell above the door chimed at his entrance, the general hum-drum of the place barely pausing to acknowledge him. McCree nodded at the tired waitress behind the bar as he sat down, choosing the stools over the sticky booths.
“What’ll ya have?”
“Coffee, black as sin,” McCree intoned lightly, taking an unnecessary glance at the menu. “And a bacon cheeseburger, side of fries, please.”
She offered him a small nod and sat a mug on the counter in front of him, filling it up to the brim with good ol’ diner drip coffee. Smelled like heaven, burned like hell. Just what he needed. McCree savored his cup for a few good minutes, ears half-listening to the conversations around him. He was just starting to eye up the pie display on the far side of the counter when the bell rang once again behind him.
The waitress stopped by to set his plate down, teeming with fries and a burger too large to be healthy, before addressing the newcomer.
“What’ll ya have?”
“Tea, please,” an accented voice, gruff yet soft, replied. “A bag and hot water will be fine.”
She turned away as the man took a seat, a few stools away from McCree. He was handsome, that much was obvious. He was also sunburned, windswept, and dusty as all hell.
“You might wanna add a tall glass of water to that order there, fella,” McCree said, munching on a fry. The stranger looked up at him with unimpressed eyes. McCree held up a hand, “Don’t mean nothin’ by it. ‘Cept you look like you’ve been out in the sun a bit and dehydration ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at.”
The man considered him for a moment, eyes sharp and assessing before offering a short nod. The waitress dropped off a mug of steaming water with a generic tea bag, some lemon wedges, and a glass of water.
“My thanks,” the stranger intoned.
Satisfied with his good deed, McCree turned his attention back to his meal, taking his time to enjoy the fresh tomato and bacon on his burger. After a rather pathetic breakfast of mini powdered donuts and an energy drink, he was feeling mighty refreshed.
McCree paused mid-chew to regard the stranger next to him, who had apparently ordered a sandwich of his own. He was holding up a paper map of all things with a red circle around Las Vegas.
“Do you happen to know anyone going to this place?” The man was looking at him intensely.
McCree swallowed his bite and quickly rubbed his mouth with a napkin. “Vegas? Yeah, I’ve heard of it.” He chuckled at his own little joke, though the stranger only blinked. He cleared his throat, “Why, you need a ride there?”
“That would be preferable to walking, yes,” the stranger gave him a wry smile, setting the map back on the countertop. “My car was stolen a few days ago. I was left without my phone, wallet, and transportation.”
McCree let out a low whistle of sympathy.
“My brother is expecting me by the end of the week,” he explained briefly, leaving McCree to fill in some blanks. “I have some cash on me, of course, I do not expect to leave you without proper compensation—”
“Alright fella, hold on now,” McCree interrupted with a smile. “I’m actually headed that way myself so I got no trouble droppin’ you off.”
The man looked relieved for all of a second before McCree continued. “But I don’t go givin’ rides to strangers. You got a name?”
The stranger regarded him with flinty eyes for a moment before he offered up a name. “Hanzo.”
“Well alright then, Hanzo. The name’s McCree.” He gestured to his half-finished burger. “I’m gonna be here a little bit so feel free to relax. We’ll get goin’ in an hour.”
Hanzo seemed to find that agreeable and offered another nod with a soft “thank you” before stuffing the paper map back into his jacket and turning to finish his tea.
Lookin’ for a lover who won’t blow my cover,
He’s so hard to find…
McCree was trying really hard not to laugh, but he had to admit it was mighty precious watching Hanzo jump into the cab of his truck. The man had looked offended at the height of it for all of a second before practically leaping into the seat with a disgruntled huff. McCree eventually decided it was equal parts hilarious and impressive and left it at that.
He climbed up into his side and started up the engine, feeling a wild blast of cold air and the static of the radio. McCree quickly adjusted the A/C, checked his gauges, and pulled out of the lot. The truck roared as it slowly got up to speed and before long, they were cruising along I-15, out of the Mojave and back towards Las Vegas.
Getting himself comfortable in his seat, McCree let his eyes slide over to his companion. Hanzo seemed to be casually scanning the interior of the cab, taking in the sunflower seeds in the cup holder and raising an eyebrow at his solar-powered dancing cactus.
Hanzo sat tense in his seat for a moment before he let out a quiet sigh. “Thank you again for helping me. And I apologize if I have put you off your route at all.”
McCree waved a hand in front of him, “Naw, don’t worry about it. I was headed this direction anyway. Won’t be a hassle at all to drop you off.”
Hanzo scanned his face and gave a small nod. “Nonetheless, I am grateful. It would have been quite the walk.”
“Jesus, you weren’t seriously gonna try to walk that, were ya?” McCree scoffed in disbelief. “Shoot, good thing I picked you up when I did.”
“Yes.” Hanzo agreed with a small nod. “I would also like to make sure that you are properly compensated for your service. I have—”
“Hey now, don’t worry about that too much,” McCree chuckled, fiddling with the brim of his hat. He offered Hanzo a sly smile. “How about you just buy me dinner when we’re in town and we’ll call it square.”
“Dinner? That is all you would ask of me?”
“Well I mean, it’d be nice for you to join me if you’re interested.” He threw in a wink. He was mighty handsome, after all.
Hanzo flushed beneath his sun-bitten face and turned to look out through the windshield.
“That… would be acceptable.”
McCree smiled widely, he couldn’t believe his luck. “Alright then. It’s a date.”
Hanzo didn’t deny it.
The ride passed in phases of companionable quiet, wildlife observations, and eventually a heated debate over the merits cowboy hats. At one point, McCree offered Hanzo a small tube of aloe vera for his burns, only to laugh at him moments later when it tinged his face a shiny green.
Hanzo smacked him hard on the arm for that one, but gratefully kept the tube at the trucker’s insistence.
“So, what’s going on in Vegas? You guys headin’ to the casinos?” McCree asked, enjoying the easy company.
“No, we’ve no taste for gambling,” Hanzo chuckled. “We have family business… Conferences to attend that neither of us are truly interested in.”
McCree hummed at that, his brain puzzling to fit the bits of information together. His companion was a bit of a mystery; too well dressed and well-spoken to be bumming rides out of gas stations. It would make sense that his car would get stolen, he supposed. Was probably a Lambo. He snorted.
Hanzo glanced at him in askance but McCree just waved him off.
McCree casually brought up their dinner plans, mentioning he’d never eaten somewhere fancier than a local steakhouse. Hanzo was insistent that they find a nice spot to sit down, a place with fancy linens that McCree could already imagine himself covering in dust.
“You’re really tryna sweep me off my feet, huh?” McCree couldn’t help but feel a little flattered at all the trouble.
Hanzo laughed, “You should expect nothing less.”
Hanzo was in the middle of making an impassioned argument in favor of traditional sashimi—which McCree was not having any part of—when docked on the dashboard between them, McCree’s phone chimed with a text.
“Ope, it’s from my boss,” he noted, seeing the name ‘Reyes’ flash on the screen. He picked it up with one hand, quickly unlocking it. “Watch the road for me for a sec.”
“That is hardly safe,” Hanzo scoffed, but turned vigilant eyes to the highway.
“Won’t be a moment,” McCree laughed, opening up the encrypted message. His heart stopped.
Reyes | Next target, vaquero. Shimada, Hanzo and Genji. Yakuza assassins. Arms dealers. Genji sighted in Vegas. Hanzo unknown. Extremely dangerous. DO NOT ENGAGE.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
“McCree, there is a turn,” Hanzo’s voice speared through the fog in his mind. McCree looked up in time to take the truck around a bend, quietly closing his phone and setting it back on the dock.
Hanzo glanced over at him as if to ask about the message but remained silent.
McCree cleared his throat. “Nothin’ to worry about,” he nodded towards the phone. “Just looks like my next job’s gonna be a rough one.”
Hanzo hummed at that. “I hope the trip is not too harrowing.”
“Yeah…” McCree thought over the message again and again. “Yeah, me too.”
Take it easy, take it easy…
Don't let the sound of them old wheels drive you crazy
They were about a half hour out from Las Vegas and McCree was in a bit of a pickle. Not only had he accidentally given a dangerous assassin a lift, but he was supposed to be keeping surveillance on him to boot.
Hanzo, for his part, seemed mostly oblivious to McCree’s distress. He had picked up on the tension, though, choosing to hum quietly to the radio instead of continuing their conversation.
McCree couldn’t help but regret the loss for a moment.
Taking a deep breath, he considered the facts.
Hanzo Shimada was in his truck. He was dangerous, but had no ill intentions towards McCree that he knew of. He was handsome, fit, and intelligent. They had a date in Vegas.
Reyes would either be pissed or impressed.
For the moment, it seemed like he could just leave things be and let them play out. After all, Reyes specifically told him not to engage and for once, he didn’t feel like challenging that order.
And he really, really had been looking forward to their date.
“I am not familiar with the local fare,” Hanzo spoke up, casually picking up where their last chat had left off. “You will have to point me towards some nicer locations.”
McCree laughed. “Don’t you worry, some of those places are obvious tourist traps but I think we can find somewhere good without much trouble.”
Hanzo looked thoughtful.
“Certainly not the kind of trouble that would require the five guns you have hidden in this vehicle.”
McCree nearly slammed on the brakes.
He shifted his eyes over toward Hanzo, pulse hammering in his neck as he assessed the situation.
“Now Hanzo,” he said, placating. “I’m sure you know life as a trucker ain’t the safest—”
“Your name is Jesse McCree.” Hanzo interrupted, his voice flinty and hard and clearly done with the bullshit. “You are a mercenary and gun-for-hire. You are almost singularly responsible for the capture of nearly twenty bounties within the United States alone.”
Hanzo finally turned his head to look McCree in the eye. “Did you truly think someone would not recognize you eventually?”
McCree swallowed around the lump in his throat and gave a resigned sigh. “I guess it’s only fair to say I know who you are too, Hanzo Shimada.”
It was only marginally rewarding to see the other man tense at the use of his full name.
Hanzo seemed to consider this for a moment. “I am on your list then.”
“Right at the top, yep.” McCree nodded, suddenly feeling tired. “Right up there with your brother.”
“You will bring no harm to Genji,” Hanzo spat, vicious and frightfully serious in that moment.
McCree shrugged. “The way I see it, we’re at a bit of a stalemate at the moment. I’m not much plannin’ anything as things are.”
“And what should become of me when we reach my destination?” Hanzo challenged, angling himself more towards the other.
“I guess that really depends on what you’re plannin’ to do there.” McCree offered, making no move to attack or even look at Hanzo. “My intel says that your family is a bunch of arms dealers. That true?”
There was a moment of silence before a softly admitted, “It is.”
“And who exactly you dealin’ these weapons to?”
This time it was Hanzo’s turn to sigh. “At the moment, they go to the highest bidder. I find the method uncouth and ill beget. I have only inherited my title recently. There are many changes to be made.”
“Oh shit, so you’re the head honcho?” McCree stared at him, incredulous.
“You were not aware of my position?”
McCree laughed then, feeling truly fucked over as they breached the city proper. “Hell no, I was not. Fuck.”
Hanzo considered him for a few long moments. McCree could feel his eyes tracing over his clenched jaw, tense shoulders, and white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel.
“Perhaps,” he began, voice cautious. “Perhaps we can help each other.”
McCree raised an eyebrow at that. “How d’ya figure?”
“You are a skilled mercenary. A marksman.” Hanzo said, sounding pensive but more confident as he continued. “I will be attending several meetings over the next week to discuss the inner workings of the Shimada Empire. There is to be a massive overhaul of both procedure and command. I will make many enemies.”
McCree absorbed this information with a frown.
Hanzo went on. “I would ask that you serve as temporary personal protection for myself and Genji. We were planning to cover each other to the best of our abilities, but it would be helpful to have another ally. Consider it me employing your services.”
McCree outright laughed at that one.
“I mean, I guess I don’t see a problem with it,” he scratched at his beard. His fingers itched for a cigar but he didn’t want to roll down the windows just yet. “I’m gonna have some real explainin’ to do to my boss, though.”
“I assure you, the fee will be more than enough to sway him.”
McCree let out one last incredulous chuckle. They were really doing this. He slouched back in his seat, letting the tension slide out of his shoulders. Across from him, Hanzo did the same. McCree glanced over to see Hanzo’s reflection in the far window, watching his eyes scan the horizon.
This was going to be hell and a half to explain to his boss…
“What have you decided?”
“Hm?” McCree glanced over at Hanzo, confused. “Oh, uh, I mean I don’t see a problem workin’ with you and your brother—”
Hanzo cut him off with an indulgent smile, “I meant about dinner, McCree. I still have my own debts to repay, and…”
McCree held his breath.
“I believe we have a date.”
McCree let out an incredulous little chuckle, trying to wrap his mind around the roller-coaster of a day he'd had. He offered Hanzo a tentative grin, nervous on several accounts yet inexplicably excited.
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
We may lose and we may win,
Though we will never be here again.
So open up I'm climbin' in,
Take it easy
=x END x=