This is how Hanzo first meets Jesse McCree.
Hanzo is in Numbani and the city is not at all to his liking. The heat and humidity make the dragons restless under his skin. The buildings are all chrome and gleaming glass, blotting out the sun with their sheer size and enclosing claustrophobically all around him. Worst of all, his current target — Kehinde Tejuoso, a man with prominent Talon ties — spends most of his time in the dirty, disreputable underbelly of the city.
Hanzo has been living in exile for nearly seven years and has long grown accustomed to filthy places such as these. However, it does not make him like them any better.
Luckily, Tejuoso is foolish enough to be a creature of habit. It takes Hanzo very little time to locate the man's favorite gambling den, and even less time to design an efficient plan to take his life.
Hanzo can't wait to get out of this city.
He impersonates one of his more careless cousins, hacking and exploiting Ozuru's personal digital information with ease. Using the clan's connections, he sets up a sham business meeting — between his cousin and a nonexistent client — in one of the private rooms of the gambling den.
All Hanzo really wants is access to the private wing, where Tejuoso's room also is, and the man's life will be his. The subsequent withdrawal and escape should be child's play, so long as he maintains his disguise.
As part of the disguise, he retrieves an old suit from one of his many safe deposit boxes. It's a deep blue pinstripe and fits slightly looser than it should — he's lost some muscle tone in the years since he was first fitted for it, due to a combination of stress, diet, and age.
Once he's dressed, he stares critically into the mirror of his hotel bathroom. Clicks his tongue and makes a mental note to scale up his personal regimen. Then, he slicks back his hair in the style his cousin favors, which sharpens the angles of his face and further obfuscates his own features. He packs Stormbow disassembled in a briefcase.
He calls a car to the gambling house. Upon arrival, he stalks into the building with all the haughty poise he can muster. People part automatically before him. Eyes track him closely across the main floor, practically burning into his skin, but Hanzo remains unfazed. He is well-practiced at maintaining his image under intense scrutiny.
The security guards stiffen up as he approaches the hall leading to the private wing. Between the four guards, their appraisal varies between professional and appreciative.
Hanzo directs his attention to the guard who seems the most distracted by the pull of Hanzo's suit across his chest.
"Shimada Ozuru," Hanzo says, in a clipped, slightly nasal voice. "I am here for business in room two-one-seven."
"Uh — right, yes, can I see some ID, sir?"
Hanzo gives an aggrieved sigh and yanks out a small personal tablet. He pulls up a false ID with Ozuru's information, and an impeccable composite of his and Ozuru's faces. As he flashes the ID, he leans in unnecessarily close and maintains a steady, dark stare on the guard.
"Go— go ahead, sir," the guard says after only a second, clearing his throat. He barely even glanced at the ID.
Hanzo gives a curt nod and stalks right past them.
The halls are completely empty so he reaches the hallway right outside Tejuoso's room without incident. Muffled voices drift out from behind the door. Excellent. He kneels down and begins rapidly assembling his bow.
Hanzo has only just thrown his quiver over his shoulder and nocked his first arrow when a group of guards — the same guards — come around the corner of the hall. There is a cry of alarm and one of them shouts into their radio.
Cursing, Hanzo quickly takes down all four, but the damage is done. In all likelihood, their backup is already on its way, with orders to take him down on sight.
Careless, how could he be so careless? In his eagerness to get this assignment over with, he did not bother to memorize the schedule for the guard rotation. Bad luck combined with fatal stupidity. His escape is now almost certainly compromised — soon, Talon is going to be sweeping the entire city for a man of his description.
He growls in frustration. In one violent motion, he kicks down Tejuoso's door. In the split second while all the occupants in the room are frozen in shock, Hanzo instantaneously picks out Tejuoso and shoots him in the eye. The man collapses behind the table.
A moment of silence. And then the screaming and shooting starts.
Hanzo braces himself against the wall of the hallway, against the roar of return fire through the open doorway. This is normally the part where he would retreat from the building via literally any other route — but he has to confirm the kill. He needs to. Tejuoso is almost certainly dead, but it has become Hanzo's practice to always check the body.
It's a perfectly reasonable practice for a mercenary, but Hanzo isn't motivated by logic.
He always checks because he never did the same for Genji.
Too terrified and sickened by what he'd done, he'd barely suppressed the urge to throw up long enough to order his men to get rid of the body.
He regrets it now. Almost half as much as the act itself. He's had enough endless nightmares of Genji coming back to life and hunting him down just like he deserves — so now, of course, Hanzo always checks the body.
The practice becomes extremely inconvenient in situations such as these.
Well, it's not like any element of stealth hasn't already been lost, Hanzo thinks irritably.
He raises his bow. Aims just around the corner of the doorway. With the slightest force of will, he allows the dragons to uncoil from his bones. They twist and ripple wildly in his flesh, barely restrained in their bloodlust — at least, until he bellows out a command and looses his arrow in the same instant.
The dragons burst from his left arm in an explosive rush of light, sound, and energy. As they carve a path of destruction through the room, the screaming briefly intensifies before it stops all at once. The vivid blue light recedes as the dragons smash through the sliding glass door of the balcony and vanish into the night.
It's eerily silent as Hanzo quickly picks his way through the devastated room. He kneels beside Tejuoso's body. No breathing, no pulse. Dead.
Time to go.
Hanzo passes through the shattered glass partition, out onto the open balcony — and freezes.
There is a man. Tall, dark, dressed in civilian clothes. Gun in his hand. He is leaning against the railing on one end of the balcony, stunned with disbelief.
He stares at Hanzo, his eyes flicking from Hanzo's face, to his bow, to the distinctive tattoo completely exposed through his torn left sleeve.
Hanzo levels his bow and arrow against the stranger and the stranger immediately raises his gun. A six-shooter.
Hanzo's mind races, automatically calculating firing speeds and angles of release and average reaction times — but he knows there's absolutely no way to break this stalemate without getting a lethal shot to the face.
He curses again and leaps over the railing.
His mechanical bracers bear the brunt of the two-story impact against pavement. He's up and running at once. His heart beats hard and furious in his chest. His face is flushed with mortification.
This assignment was a disaster from start to finish — it's almost poetic that he topped it all off by leaving a witness behind.
Two days later, Hanzo finds out exactly who that stranger in Numbani actually was.
A contact of Hanzo's has sent along another set of targets. Some are open hits, others offers for private contracts.
As Hanzo browses through the target files on his tablet — ignoring the rewards and focusing only on their criminal records — he suddenly comes across a familiar face.
Jesse McCree. Mercenary and ex-intelligence. Open hit. Sixty million dollar bounty. Wanted on so many counts that Hanzo has to scroll down several times to even read them all. Included among the list are numerous high-profile assassinations, acts of political destabilization, conspiracy and subterfuge — and, inexplicably, a handful of hypertrain heists.
Hanzo scrolls back up and stares once more at that face — dark and handsome, with a crooked nose, deep-set eyes, and a wild scruff of a beard. Hanzo thinks back to that balcony in Numbani.
Hanzo didn't just leave behind a witness that night.
He left a rival.
The second time Hanzo runs into Jesse McCree, he's in the city of Oasis.
He's been tracking his next target — Catherine Shelby, omnic parts trafficker in the States — for about a week. Shelby has been vacationing in Oasis with a civilian friend. Having learnt his lesson from Numbani, Hanzo has been taking his time, watching and waiting for the right moment, always following from a distance.
The day that Hanzo finally decides to kill her, he senses that he has collected a follower of his own.
Whoever they are, they are good. Very discreet. They only reveal their hand by being ever so slightly over-eager.
Most likely another clan assassin, Hanzo thinks.
After leaving Shelby dead in an alley, and her civilian friend unconscious beside her, Hanzo stands in a shadowed nook where he has full view of the bodies.
He only has to wait five minutes before he sees a man come around the corner.
Hanzo nearly chokes. He recognizes the man instantly — even under the touristy Hawaiian shirt and the ridiculous wide-brimmed straw hat.
It's Jesse McCree.
Hanzo can hardly believe his eyes. Jesse McCree is the one who's been following him.
McCree lets out a low whistle at the sight of the bodies. He wanders closer to take a look, then straightens up with a shake of his head.
"What a stone cold bastard," he says aloud.
Hanzo steps out silently from the shadows and grabs McCree from behind. He twists the man's arm in a deft maneuver and shoves him to the ground.
"You have been following me around all day," he hisses. He feigns ignorance of McCree's identity, wondering what sort of cover story he'll hear. And why on earth the man would be following him. "Who are you and what do you want?"
But McCree only shifts slightly under Hanzo's grip, seemingly unconcerned that his face is plastered into the ground. Rather than feigning ignorance, the man answers with complete and bizarre honesty. "I'm another merc, but off duty— was only just curious, hon," he says, in a low, sweet drawl. "Wanted to see how you were gonna deal with Shelby. Didn't mean no harm by it—"
The man stops talking as Hanzo presses the tip of an arrow against the base of his neck, right where it meets his spine.
"Do not lie to me." Hanzo can't quite hide his own bewilderment. McCree has been following him out of curiosity? Inconceivable. "Who sent you?" he tries. "Was it the family?" The words sound absurd the moment they come out of his mouth. As if in a million years the clan would hire someone as notorious as Jesse McCree to hunt down Hanzo. "No," Hanzo mutters, "they'd never send someone so loud and obvious—"
"Hey, I can be subtle," McCree pipes up. Hanzo scowls and presses the arrow harder, though with no intention of following through.
Of course, he's immediately called out on his bluff.
"Jeez, you really gonna kill me now?" McCree asks, still sounding as nonchalant as ever.
Hanzo pauses, then gives a sharp sigh. He removes the arrow.
"No," he says irritably. "I never kill on a whim— not even idiot bounty hunters who should know better than to follow me." Hanzo twists McCree's arm just a bit harder. He should at least try to warn off the other man. "Do not make the same mistake again. I will not be so forgiving the next time, and you may not live to regret it."
McCree never does end up heeding Hanzo's words — but to be fair, Hanzo never follows through on his threat either.
The third time they meet is in Kathmandu in the dead of night.
McCree has already nabbed the target and is whistling tunelessly over the body as he reloads his gun.
Hanzo watches from his hidden perch on a nearby building. Normally, if he found his target stolen by another hunter, he would simply move on. Under any normal circumstances, McCree would never even know Hanzo had been here.
But Hanzo is hesitating.
He is hesitating because this target is, in fact, far below both Hanzo and McCree's pay grades.
Although the target is a well-known terrorist bomber, he generally targets ordinary civilians rather than influential individuals or groups. As a result, he hasn't made any especially powerful enemies, so the bounty is only a paltry ten thousand. Hardly worth the effort of flying to Nepal, if money was the main motivation for McCree. There are far more lucrative jobs out there.
...Yet here he is, anyway.
Hanzo suddenly recalls everything he read on McCree's file in precise detail — all of the various crimes that earned him that sixty million dollar bounty. The countless assassinations of powerful, corrupt, and otherwise untouchable political figures. The numerous information thefts and leaks, shocking and despicable enough to topple multinational organizations.
And now, the man is making his living as a bounty hunter, but choosing targets that barely even cover his cost of travel.
The money is immaterial to him, Hanzo realizes. Jesse McCree is dispensing justice.
He is just like Hanzo.
The thought swirls around in Hanzo's mind. It settles, then solidifies. And Hanzo comes to a decision.
Hanzo calls out to McCree.
"What did I tell you the last time?"
McCree whips around, gun immediately pointed in Hanzo's direction. But after the initial shock passes, after McCree's eyes light up in recognition, he seems inexplicably delighted to see Hanzo. The gun goes down.
"Aw, now that ain't fair," McCree says. "I know I don't have the best track record, but I actually wasn't following you this time. Just the target. Matter of fact, I got here first — so who's to say you weren't the one following me?"
"Do not be ridiculous," Hanzo says automatically. "I came to Nepal for the target."
"Well," McCree says, laughter in his voice as he gestures down at the body, "you found him. Bit too late though, sorry."
They talk a little. And as they do, Hanzo comes to a second major realization — he realizes that he likes this man.
Hanzo likes this man, with his confidence, his easy charm, and his dedication towards doing what's right.
It's a disquieting thing to discover about himself, considering that Hanzo hasn't voluntarily spent time with another person for seven years.
And it keeps happening. Target after target, Hanzo keeps spotting McCree from afar, and instead of working around him — as Hanzo logically should — instead he allows himself to be seen. Allows McCree to notice him again and again, just so they can talk. Talk over cooling bodies that either one of them has just dispatched. Talk about everything and nothing, for hours at a time.
Soon, Hanzo knows many things about Jesse McCree, beyond his extensive list of crimes and accomplishments.
Hanzo knows that McCree is able to kill nine men with six bullets. That his eyes are sharp as a hawk’s but he needs glasses to read up close. That his prosthetic cannot feel pain but the stump of his left arm still aches when it rains.
Hanzo also knows that he has a weakness for children and the elderly. That he is brave, honorable, and loyal to a fault. And that — despite everything he’s seen — he still believes ordinary people are good at heart.
Hanzo knows a lot about Jesse McCree. But on the other hand, Hanzo reveals very little about himself.
McCree only knows him as Dragonstrike, the assassin — nothing of his past, his upbringing, his criminal connections. Hanzo knows full well that this anonymity is the only reason a vigilante and idealist like McCree even tolerates his company. He knows that if he wishes to maintain this relationship, he has to remain Dragonstrike.
But the title soon grows unbearable anyway.
Hanzo has always hated it. Dragonstrike is only a reminder that he was once careless enough to allow a client to witness the dragons. A client who henceforth attached that stupid label to him forever.
Hanzo would rather be called any false name than Dragonstrike.
"If you must call me something," Hanzo tells McCree, several months into their acquaintanceship, "then…Ryu will suffice." Ridiculously, he actually hesitates for a split second. As if he were actually going to use his real one.
McCree either doesn't notice or doesn't care about Hanzo's unease. "Ryu it is," McCree says, accepting the new name with an easy grin.
Hanzo pretends he doesn't wish McCree was saying a different one instead.
It takes nine months before McCree makes his first offer of partnership.
Hanzo is crouched over a body in Giza, searching through the pockets for a flash drive his client wants. McCree is watching him in silence.
"Work with me," McCree suddenly says. "Let's be partners."
Hanzo tenses up. He does not understand.
"Lately," McCree explains, "I've just been thinking about how much I'd like it if someone I trusted was watching my back for once, and vice versa. And I realized that maybe I want you to be that someone."
Why? Hanzo thinks. Why me of all people? It's not the first time he's been baffled by Jesse McCree, but it's the first time he has seriously doubted McCree's soundness of mind.
Trusting anyone in this line of work? Foolish. Impractical. Unimaginable.
Hanzo refuses the offer and vanishes. Stops talking to McCree entirely. Erases any hint of his own existence.
It's a return to form for Hanzo.
Yet somehow, it feels as though the nights have grown even longer and colder than before. Hanzo wasn't aware how invigorating it had been to have someone to talk to and confide in for once. Even if that someone had been another mercenary who didn't even know Hanzo's real name, let alone the true extent of his crimes.
It takes Hanzo four months to come to terms with a third major realization — that he hates this. That he hates being alone, even after seven odd years of it. And that, at heart, he does truly miss McCree.
Hanzo finally gives in.
He resurfaces in Hong Kong, knowing that McCree will find him.
It takes the man only two days to track Hanzo down to a bar in Tsim Sha Tsui to make a second offer of partnership.
This time, Hanzo accepts.