Jesse McCree hesitated in the doorway. The impressive conference room dwarfed the few agents seated around the table. All six of them had their backs to him, attention fixed on Overwatch’s leader apparent. Jesse had heard of Winston, of course. Few former agents hadn’t. How often does an organization adopt a literal moon gorilla into its ranks, after all? Winston had his back turned to him as well, indicating with a large hand specific points of interest on his presentation, stumbling over his own pre-rehearsed speech. Of all the people who could have initiated a Recall, he wouldn’t have pinned the timid scientist as the one to finally push the red button.
The rest of the agents he knew by more than just reputation. He could see Lena sitting towards the front, the former RAF pilot twirling her stylus thoughtlessly as she blankly stared at the charts on screen. Doc Ziegler hunched over a paper notepad, writing illegible sentences and frequently glancing up at the holovision. Torbjörn Lindholm’s short stature nearly hid him from Jesse’s line of sight, but the aged engineer’s constant grumbling ensured his discovery. Lindholm’s lifelong friend Reinhardt Wilhelm sat near the front, squinting out of his one good eye, his hulking body undoubtedly blocking the screen for his reasonably sized goddaughter-turned-assistant Brigitte.
It was the final member that gave him pause—Genji Shimada, ex-Yakuza heir, fratricide survivor, literal ninja, and the best damn friend he’d ever had. He nearly buckled under the onslaught of emotions, regret and shame forefront among them. The weight of abandoning his comrades all those years ago bore down on him mercilessly. He took a step back. He had no right to be here. Silently as he arrived, he left the room, none the agents wiser of his return.
"I thought that I might find you here." The voice behind him was quiet. Jesse didn’t need to turn around to know who had followed him to the roof of the comms tower. Genji remained the only human being to ever successfully sneak up on him. His synthesized voice was a dead giveaway, too.
"Can't say the same of you, old friend."
"You speak of my presence with the new Overwatch." Genji's streamlined form slid into his peripheral vision. Jesse merely nodded his response. They sat there for a while, watching freighters glide across the sea.
He took a moment to study the cyborg out the corner of his eye. Not much was outwardly different. Perhaps a few mechanical pieces had been replaced. Maybe that nick on his visor had been there before Jesse left. Maybe it hadn't. The details of Genji’s carapace were not what captured his interest, however. The cyborg wore no clothes. Not that he was naked--he was covered in light-weight armor after all-- but Jesse remembered how insistent Genji had been to blend in with other people as much as possible. How desperate the young Japanese man had been to retain his humanity. He remembered how angry Genji had always been. How angry they both had been. They had raged at the world together for a time, back before it all went to shit. "Why are you back, Genji?"
"Why are you?"
Jesse chuckled at his knee-jerk challenge. "I don't rightly know. Guess I was lonesome. Nine years on the run is a long time to be without friends." Jesse frowned, reaching into his leather jacket to withdraw a cigarillo. "Long time."
His friend turned to face him, visor glinting in the daylight. "I looked for you. When you left, we were not sure why. Some believed that you returned to Deadlock. Some thought that you were dead. I did not know what to think. Even after the Swiss Headquarters, I could not connect the circles."
Jesse shot him an amused glance. "Dots."
"Hm?" Genji tilted his head in question.
"It's 'connect the dots', not circles." He grinned around his cigarillo.
Electronic chuckles filled the space between them. "Forgive me, it has been some time since I have spoken English." The cyborg paused for a moment before continuing. "I have been with the Shambali in Nepal. I have learned a great deal from the masters there. It was only after I learned to accept my own anger-- after I had learned to accept myself-- that I could understand others." Genji stared out over the ocean again. "You were always better at understanding people. I used to envy you for it. I counted it as a failure of my new body, when it was instead a failure of my own person." Jesse turned his head to the ninja, brows raised in surprise. "You were the first to see the cracks in Overwatch. What many saw as a temporary fissure between Reyes and Morrison you saw as a harbinger of the earthquake to come." Genji shook his head. "By the time I understood this, it had been years since your disappearance. I had no hope of tracking you, but I tried anyway." Now his friend turned towards him, lifting a hand to his faceplate and sliding the visor away. The flesh was still scarred from both cuts and burns, but his eyes were bright with life. "Please forgive me for not being there for you, Jesse McCree."
He paled. It was too much. After a decade on the run with only passing acquaintances, after hundreds of nights with only his thoughts for company, it was too much to look his best friend in the face. A best friend who was laying bare his emotions, asking for forgiveness, long after Jesse had convinced himself that they had all forgotten him. So he did the only thing he could in the situation. "I hope this isn't you tryin' to recreate Brokeback Mountain. You're pretty and all, but I don't think I'm your type."
Genji's lips twitched into a smile. "I see that you are the same as ever." He slid the visor back into place. "I am afraid I must ask forgiveness again, for I do not believe you."
"About you bein' pretty or me not bein' your type? Because unless you started battin' for my team--"
Genji playfully swatted the back of Jesse's head. "About the reason for your return. If companionship is what drove you here, you would not have left without announcing yourself.
He sighed. "Guess you weren't lyin' about learnin' from the Shambali. You never used to be this perceptive." He took a long draught from his cigar, contemplating his answer. "I wasn't lyin', either. It's just a little more complicated than loneliness. I've only ever belonged to two places: Deadlock and Blackwatch. When Overwatch put out the call, I thought I could belong again. But it ain't the same." He laughed to himself. "Of course it ain't the same, not when almost all of the original members are rottin' in forgotten graves." Jesse stood abruptly before slowly pacing around the rooftop. "I think it's better this way, though. Even when I first joined Blackwatch, the organization was dying. Tearing itself apart from the inside. The young folk in that meetin' room, they don't know. Winston, Lena, Doc Ziegler, Reinhardt’s protégé, they don't remember. Well, maybe Doc… But it’s a good thing they don’t, because if they did they'd make all the same mistakes again. Overwatch is reborn from the ashes, but I'm not meant to be a part of it. I'd just help poison it all over again."
Genji did not move, perched on the edge of the roof, watching patiently as Jesse aired his grievances. "Would that not be true for me, as well?"
Jesse smiled at him. "Naw. I mean, look at you. You're a born-again man. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if you were a born-again virgin, too." Genji snorted. "I don't know. Maybe it does apply to you. But you don't have any of that anger that you were holdin' on to in the old days. I do."
Genji hummed contemplatively. "Perhaps. Perhaps it would be easier to heal if you acknowledged your anger for what it truly is.” Jesse glanced at him sharply, but the little shit didn’t give him a chance to call him out. “What do you intend to do now?"
He shrugged. "I guess go back to the States. Keep on keepin' on." Even as he said it, he could feel his chest clench painfully. The idea of having to lay low for the rest of his life hurt. He never meant for it to be a permanent solution, but the small bounty on his head had only grown larger and larger after Overwatch fell-- until he had no other choice but to hide.
Genji stood. "I believe that you have made an error in your judgments, Jesse."
"I have not rejoined Overwatch."
Jesse could only stare and repeat himself. "How's that?"
"I came here to Gibraltar to find you. I have one more task to complete before I will be ready to return." Genji stood, laying a hand on Jesse's shoulder and looking up at the tall American. "I have a proposal."
"So you are battin' for my team."
"Jesse be serious." Genji paused, presumably to recollect himself. "I want your help in finding my brother.”
He stared at his best friend, dumbfounded. “You mean, to kill the bastard, right?” Jesse was having a difficult time wrapping his mind around the situation. Both he and Genji had returned to Watchpoint: Gibraltar without actually returning to Overwatch. Genji was here specifically for Jesse. For his help. For his help finding the piece of shit that tried to turn Genji into a sushi dish. Even if he didn’t understand exactly how the circumstances ended up like this, he sure as hell knew what to do from here. “Hell yeah, I’ll help you track him down!”
“Not quite. I want to find him and bring him to Overwatch.”
Jesse narrowed his eyes at Genji, but his damnable faceplate betrayed nothing. “Is this one of those ‘only the law can judge him’ things? Because the death penalty was abolished in 2032 and that’s the only thing that fucker deserves.”
“Hear me out. My brother left the Shimada soon after my—ah, the incident. At the time, we thought that he had gone into hiding.” Jesse nodded. Genji’s sole purpose in his second life had been hunting down his murderous brother and tearing down everything and anything associated with the Shimada-gumi. There had been countless Blackwatch missions and operations, but they never managed to find the head of the Shimada clan.
“So you want to capture him so we can make sure there’s nothin’ left of the old clan? Because we can do that without takin’ him back here. All we need is a soundproof basement, two weeks, and a Blackwatch Q&A kit.”
Genji’s voice hardened, “Jesse, we are not torturing my brother!” There was a brief pause, and his next words were more patient, although the underlying sharpness remained. “I already know where he is and I have contacted him. I believe he has suffered enough for his transgressions.”
“You believe—you’ve contacted him?” Jesse spluttered. “You mean in-person, mano e mano, shootin’ range contact? We spent years lookin’ for that piece of shit! So not only do you know where the son of a bitch is-- you left him alive?!”
“You are not listening! I have seen him. I have watched him for months now. He is not the same man as the one that cut me down. He is broken and hollow. He returns to my grave every year on the anniversary of my death! Are those not the actions of a repentant man? He deserves the same second chance that I received.”
“No, he doesn’t!” Jesse tore his hat from his head for emphasis. He turned away from Genji and stalked to the edge of the roof, glaring at the sea. There was a lengthy pause while Jesse stewed.
“What right do you have to pass judgment on him?” Genji’s voice was gentle, bordering on serene. “You were not the victim of his crimes. I am. I have forgiven him. Is that not all that matters?”
Jesse replaced his hat before lighting another cigarillo to cover his silence. He thought back to Genji’s rescue and subsequent recovery in intensive care. He remembered first seeing the grotesque body and mistaking it for a corpse. Genji’s skin had been flayed from his body, leaving only reddened and raw flesh behind. Deep cuts secreted both crimson blood and yellow plasma. Despite the severed limbs and medical instruments shoved into nearly every available orifice, it was Genji’s hair that broke Jesse’s heart. What was wildly styled and exotically colored in life had been reduced to a few lifeless patches of stringy hair, covered in bodily fluids. Genji had lived a vibrant life only to be betrayed by one of the few people he had trusted implicitly.
Maybe Genji had listened too closely to the Shambali. They were only robots who had no concept of familial obligations, nothing to resemble blood ties. Of course they wouldn’t know the duties of an elder sibling. They wouldn’t understand the completely unforgivable nature of fratricide—intentional or not. Jesse turned back to Genji. The cyborg waited patiently, his faceplate ever impassive. Jesse sighed.
“Lemme get this straight. You found your brother. You followed him, watched him, and presumably gathered information on his habits from others,” Genji nodded in confirmation. “You decided that he is either a changed man or so torn up over his actions that he might as well be one.” Another nod. “You believe that he deserves both forgiveness and a second chance.” Yet another nod. “Why do you need my help for that?”
“My brother… does not quite believe that I am truly alive. He does not believe he deserves forgiveness—“
“At least one of you has sense.”
Genji ignored the interruption. “—and even if he did, I do not think that he knows how to seek it. That’s why I want to bring him to Overwatch. We can help save the world as brothers and... perhaps save him in the process.”
“I don’t remember you always bein’ so idealistic,” he grumbled.
Genji again chose not to respond.
Jesse weighed his options. He had no desire to help redeem the bastard older brother, but he knew very well that Genji was incredibly well-suited to single-minded determination. The ninja would go off on this hare-brained scheme with or without Jesse if it meant he could rescue his brother, but he’d have a much better chance of living through it if Jesse tagged along. He shook his head disbelievingly.
Genji’s posture deflated, interpreting Jesse's silence as a refusal.
Jesse peered into the green stripe across the visor that shielded Genji's eyes. “When do we leave?”
Excitement and joy colored the ninja’s next words: “Right away.”