Here was something that most folk didn’t know about Deadlock. There was a powerful shaman on their payroll, one with enough magic in her blood to pull reapers out from the veil.
She called up the god of death, the Grim Reaper himself, making deals for the people in her gang. It gave them bullets that would never miss, each of those shots becoming a soul that got sent straight to the god of death to do with as he pleased rather than taking the poor sap to be judged.
It was a good deal all and all, until the bullets ran out. Then the poor son of a bitch that they’d been tied to would go up in flames. No living man was meant to hold that kind of power, power called straight from the Reaper himself.
Jesse had been so stupid when he’d agreed to the deal, when he’d thought he’d be different. He had more bullets than the rest of them, his soul more open to the power and in another life he would have been a necromancer but his mama’s line had never had magic in their blood and she didn’t know who his daddy was.
By the time Blackwatch tumbled into the picture his number of bullets was still in the hundreds but he also knew what would happen when he died so he used them sparingly. As sparingly as he could in the gang and then in Blackwatch and then on the run from a bounty so high that if he could turn it in himself he would be sorely tempted.
Jesse Mcree had been sitting on 6 shots for a very long time when Overwatch came knocking.
Jesse knew his fate, had known it since he was fourteen and sitting in the middle of a summoning circle waiting for the Reaper to come a calling. Had known it since the number 666 had burned its way into his brain and begun ticking down every time he tapped into that place in his soul that the Death had made his own.
That had sounded like an impossible number at the time. Who could kill 666 men in their life?
Jesse had known his fate, knew what the shape of his death would be but he hadn’t known when that fate would be. And now he was sitting on 6 shots.
He didn’t regret it, couldn’t regret it. Not one of those deaths had been an innocent, even the 36 he’d gunned down before Blackwatch had had blood caked into their hands.
But 6 shots… One full turn of his six shooter?
Jesse could feel one of the Reaper’s reapers over his shoulder now, close enough to feel the creature’s breath on the back of his neck. Death had always loomed large over his life but now it was close enough to taste.
Jesse stared at the recall symbol and sighed. “Well, might as well go out with a bang.”
The first time Mcree saw Hanzo Shimada he seriously debated planting one of the Bullets between his eyes and whittling himself down to 5. The rage that boiled up in his blood was completely unexpected.
Genji could take care of himself, Jesse had learned that a long time ago but Jesse had been in the infirmary when Angela had brought him in, had walked with the other man on every step of his recovery. He’d been there when Genji had finally had the breakdown that led him to the monks. He’d been there when the ninja had tried to tear himself to pieces.
Hanzo Shimada had caused all of that pain and if Jesse had any say in the matter he would have encouraged Genji to behead the bastard. But no, Genji had gone and gotten himself inner peace while he was in the mountains and wanted to make up with the bastard.
Genji was the first one off of the transport, a strategic move that would have been a sound decision if Jesse had been anyone else. As it was, once the ninja had launched himself into the cowboy’s arms Jesse was almost inclined to ignore the other people disembarking from the craft.
That was, until he spotted the japanese man trying to slink off of the ship relatively unnoticed.
“Hijo de puta!” Jesse drew his six shooter and marched over to the man standing stock still in the center of the off ramp.
Jesse may… may have overreacted.
He’d actually dropped his normal, easy going air and let the rage boil over. His smooth southern accent slipping into the cadence of a natural spanish speaker.
“Listen up, cabron,” Jesse snarled, nose an inch from Hanzo’s own and the barrel of his gun pressed to the underside of the other man’s jaw. “You hurt Genji again and I will not hesitate to send your soul straight back to wear it came. Got that, pendejo?”
“Jesse!” Genji cried in a tone Jesse had only heard when the other man was being ratted out for some prank or other.
“He killed you once already, I am not letting him do it again.” The cowboy snapped.
“Jesse, he’s my brother! I forgave him already!” If Genji still had hair he’d be tugging on it like he was trying to pull it out.
“No, Genji. It is good that you have one so determined to protect you.” Hanzo interrupted his brother’s scolding.
Jesse blinked at him, Deadeye fading out because gods, old and new, that voice sounded like the deep rumble of an earthquake. And now that Jesse was actually looking at him instead of riding the wave of incandescent rage that had been in his blood earlier he had to admit that the man was handsome.
Jesse had always known he batted for both teams, had proven that time and time again in Deadlock and there was the embarrassing crush he’d had on Jack for the first year of Blackwatch but he’d never had such a visceral reaction to someone’s voice before. He wanted to push Hanzo up against the wall and have his way with him.
Jesse spat at Hanzo’s feet and backed off, refusing to take his eyes off of the other man until he got far enough away that he wouldn’t have to worry about a blade to the ribs. He’d learned that lesson with the more volatile members of Blackwatch. Genji had never tried it but Genji had also been the one to stop most of those rib shots from landing so he knew the gesture.
The ninja ended up shooting Jesse a look that he couldn’t interpret from behind the mask. It was probably the really exasperated one though, the one that said he was being ridiculous. Jesse didn’t care if he was being ridiculous, he needed a drink.
Soldier 76 fell into step with him as he made his way towards the kitchen. “Angela already raided it.”
“Fuck.” Jesse ran a hand over his face in pure exasperation.
“I know where a few bottles of rum are stashed.”
Later, after a few glasses in one of the more secure training rooms Jesse sprawled across the floor and stared at the ceiling. Jack, because it was Jack, there was no one else he knew who could pull off that jawline, was leaning against a wall and had downed a whole bottle by then.
“Do you ever miss him?” Jesse asked.
“Yup. Do you?” Jack raised a bottle to his lips and took a long swig.
“Yeah,” Jesse sighed and rolled onto his stomach. “Did you ever find out why he did it? Set the bombs I mean, he had to have known he wouldn’t be able to get out in time. We set charges like that over a hundred times in practice. He always told us to watch the timers, leave enough time if somethin’ went wrong. Why’d he set the time so short?”
“He didn’t.” Jack sighed.
“What?” Jesse froze for half a second before scrambling up and around to stare at the former commander.
“He didn’t set the charges. Overwatch was rotten from the core and I couldn’t fucking see it. He came in with a team and did a sweep. We were arguing in the office when the radio flicked on. He looked so scared, Jess, and then his eyes just went dead.” Jack paused to take another swig of liquor.
“We set those charges so many times, he knew exactly how long it would take to get out of there.” Jesse said.
They must not have had time to get out. Jesse didn’t know what he would have done in a similar situation, had never had his back to the wall that thoroughly before. He’d always had his gun and the bullets in his blood, the numbers etched deep into his soul like a brand.
“He hugged me, it was the first time he touched me in…” Jack sighed and reached up to rub at the skin at the edge of his visor. “Hell, I don’t even know how long. Two minutes, that was the time left on the charges when his team found them.”
Jesse winced, he’d never been to the Zurich base but he’d seen the layout, Gabe had made him memories the blueprints one day, after one of the hell runs he liked to put new recruits through. Two minutes was nowhere near enough time to get out of that base, was nowhere near enough time to get out any of the bases.
“He held me the entire time, he apologized, he never apologized. I’ve never been so scared in my life.” Jack paused. “And then they went off.”
Silence ruled for a few brief moments as that little tidbit sank in, hanging in the air like a guillotine. Jesse had known that there was something more than the bonds of war going on between his Commander and the Commander of Overwatch, everyone had but he’d just thought it was a deeper than usual friendship.
But he recognized that tone, his Mama had had that tone of voice when she talked about his father. That mix of longing, pain, and love didn’t come out of someone’s mouth when the feeling behind it was platonic.
“How many bullets?” Jack asked.
“What?” Jesse blinked.
“How many bullets do you have left?” Jack clarified.
“Gabe told you about that?” Jesse reached out his glass for another top off.
Jack obliged him. “Yup, it wasn’t in your paperwork but I needed to know what was going on if you suddenly went nuclear on a job.”
Silence as Jesse decided whether or not he wanted to actually tell his former boss how much of a liability he actually was.
“6.” Jesse took a long drink.
Jack lowered the bottle from his lips and turned to fix his eyes on Jesse’s mostly blank face. “Six?”
“6.” Jesse nodded and drained his glass, savoring what was left of the burn of the whiskey.
“Do me a favor kid?”
Jack set the bottle down and then let himself topple over onto one side so that he could curl up on his side. “Don’t die before me? I don’t think I could stand Gabe’s niños dying before me, when I could have been there to prevent it.”
Jack stumbled over the spanish, he always had and probably always would, but the drunken slur made it worse. Jesse had to bite his lip to hold back his emotions, he wasn’t sure if he’d end up laughing or crying.
“Did you know that there was a sorceress on the Shimada’s payroll?” Genji asked.
Jesse blinked and turned to look at him, the other man had his mask off and was toying with a shuriken. If he’d been anyone else that particular tick would be threatening but Jesse knew better, Genji wasn’t one to make blatant threats.
“I’d guessed, most crime groups do. Deadlock had a shaman, even if half the earnings from any job we did went to her and she did fuck all besides doom us all to the Grim Reaper’s eternal embrace.” Jesse turned to pour the rest of his coffee.
“True, but this one was more powerful than one would initially think. The truly powerful magic users normally go into public service or private practice. This one saw more potential at the left hand of a yakuza lord.” Genji said.
Jesse paused and thought that over for a second.
Most powerful magic users were discovered young and their power fostered to grow, carefully monitored so that they didn’t become a Dark Lord or something equally as dangerous. Those few magic users who he had seen in the slums, living in poverty, had either been born with less power than it took to light a candle or had stamped out their talents as a means of self defence.
“There is a ritual, one that takes place after the dragons are bestowed upon us, one that is meant to stop us should we ever lose control.” Genji explained.
Jesse tilted his head and picked up his coffee cup. That made sense, the Shimadas had dragons under their skin and if those dragons decided they wanted to go on a rampage there wasn’t much really stopping them. But from what he’d seen they were rather docile while not in combat, or at least Genji’s was.
“Okay, why are you telling me this?” Jesse asked.
“The magic made us more susceptible to suggestion from those who held the trigger phrases. Mine was removed, Hanzo’s-”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Jesse held up the hand not holding the coffee. “Genji, did he give you permission to tell me this?”
“I thought you hated him.” Genji blinked.
“Hate’s a strong word and there’s only one person I’ve ever attributed it to, your brother ain’t it. Even if I did he deserves to know if you’re airin’ his dirty laundry all over the common area. I may only have a 6 count left but Blackwatch taught us both there are ears everywhere.” Jesse snapped.
Genji went deathly still, still in a way that only he and his brother had ever really pulled off. Jesse had only seen him do it outside of a mission once and that was when one of the newbie had tried to stab Jesse.
“Six.” Genji breathed.
Jesse stared at him, face blank.
“You only have six left?” Genji asked.
Jesse sighed and set the coffee cup down. “Genji, can we not do this now? I ain’t caffeinated enough for this right now.”
“Oh, please, I have seen you assassinate a man barely five minutes after you woke up.” Genji scoffed.
“That was adrenaline and you know it.” Jesse knew the exact incident he was talking about and he didn’t want to think about it.
“You are trying to change the subject!” Genji pointed an accusing finger at him.
Jesse held back the curse that he wanted to let out. Genji was always best at telling when Jesse was trying to bullshit him, almost better than Reyes.
“That doesn’t matter, what does is the fact that you’re here, spillin’ your brother’s secrets without his permission.” Jesse snapped.
“You had over two hundred bullets when last we spoke!” Genji snapped back, eyes narrowing into a glare. “How did you manage to be backed that far into corners that many times?”
“Have you seen the bounty on my head?” Jesse asked, voice flat enough to be used as a level.
“You idiot.” Genji hissed.
“Like you’re any better.” Jesse growled and tossed his cup into the sink before turning to stomp out.
Hanzo was standing in the doorway, the sight of him, shirtless, dressed only in sleep pants made him pause for half a second before he brushed past the other man as he made his way out. The touch of their bare arms slid heat up his spine and sapped all the moisture from his mouth.
Hanzo had never really seen the appeal of firearms, they were too loud, too flashy, too inhospitable for stealth for his liking. He knew how to shoot of course, that was a weakness that would have been viciously exploited and he couldn’t have allowed it even if his father would tolerate his eccentricities but he’d never enjoyed the practice.
But seeing Jesse McCree standing in the middle of the training room in nothing but a pair of sweatpants and a threadbare tank top while he unloaded clip after clip of ammo into rapidly moving targets, targets that moved at a pace Hanzo would have never been able to keep up with was enough to give him pause.
He stared at the other man, the gruff american that had threatened him so easily, who Genji trusted with the deepest secret of the Shimada family and didn’t see an unskilled halfwit too lazy to learn the art of the bow. Instead what stood before him was a skilled man who had turned himself into a weapon and was still refining skills that had not faded even after years on the run.
Hanzo had seen the bounty that had been placed on McCree’s head, had even considered going to America to claim that bounty a time or two. He knew the man was skilled but he also knew that the number of people who knew McCree’s face was in the thousands, a disaster for most special agents.
“Did you give Genji permission to tell me what he was about to yesterday?” The man asked, almost making Hanzo break composure enough to jump.
McCree hadn’t even paused in his shooting, showing no indication beyond a side long smirk that he was even aware of Hanzo’s presence. That was impressive, the control that must have taken enough to make Hanzo rethink his threat assessment of the man.
“Not quite, I told him that certain people on the team would need to be aware in case someone who knew about it tried to use the knowledge against us but he did not tell me who he would be speaking to.” Hanzo stepped fully into the room, letting the door slide closed behind him on silent tracks.
McCree kissed his teeth, a sound Hanzo hadn’t been aware people outside of reality tv actually made. He lowered his gun and turned to look at Hanzo.
“Ask,” he ordered.
“I do not know what you are talking about.” Hanzo very carefully didn’t shift onto the balls of his feet.
“You were in the doorway when I turned around and we weren’t being all that quiet near the end, you heard some of that argument. So ask?” McCree said.
“You are dangerously perceptive,” Hanzo said.
Jesse just waited for him to say something.
“What did Genji mean by you having two hundred bullets the last time the two of you spoke?” Hanzo asked after a second of debate.
“Deadlock had a Shaman on payroll,” McCree explained. “Summoned up the Grim Reaper and I made a deal. He gave me 666 bullets to do with as I pleased, ones that’ll never miss their target.”
Hanzo hissed under his breath, the way Genji had looked there weren’t many of those bullets left now that McCree had joined Overwatch once more. That was a lot of blood, considering Jesse probably didn’t use his bullets for every kill he made.
“I take it you do not have many left,” Hanzo commented.
McCree just shrugged in reply before going back to practicing. He debated leaving the other man to his practice in favor of hunting Genji down and yelling at him for revealing secrets that were that personal in a communal room, one where anyone could walk in at any time.
But, no, Hanzo needed the practice or he would be of no use to the fledgling Overwatch and this gave him an opportunity to see how McCree operated. And to keep watching the bunch and flex of his muscles as he handled a weapon but that was neither here nor there
It was a strange thing to watch a man knowledgeably of his own mortality fight in a battle not his own.
Jesse grit his teeth and counted the men arrayed on the roof around them. Three on the roof to their left and three on the roof to their right.
Hanzo was behind him, thoroughly out of commission, what with the wound in his shoulder. It was bleeding like a stuck pig even with the pressure the elder Shimada was putting on the wound.
He’d taken out three of the bastards before he’d gone down, ground troops meant to herd him into the dead end alley they were currently cornered in. But now he was a sitting duck, unable to summon the dragons or even draw his bow since the bullet that was currently lodged in his shoulder had broken his collarbone.
Jesse had only made it there in time to put a bullet through the fourth one as he bared down on the wounded man. Not one of the 6 but a bullet to the brain was fatal no matter who you were.
There was too much adrenaline in his system for him to aim anywhere approaching decent at the moment and they were on the roof with long range rifles. He would have to shoot them through their gods damned scopes to get off a kill shot and at a time like this he knew he wouldn’t be able to manage that. He was too far into the battle high, too out of practice, too old, too tired to live up to his title of sharp shooter.
This whole op had stunk of a trap the second Winston had laid it out for them. Jack had known it, Genji had known it, and Jesse had known it but this part especially reaked.
It was a smart trap, one that Jesse had set up himself quite a few times back in the Blackwatch days. Cause just enough chaos and pull everyone's attention away from the target, then play the long game to draw them out and away from the rest of the group. It was risky, a pain in the ass to pull off, and easily foiled if someone noticed what you were doing.
The question of why they had targeted Hanzo wasn’t all that hard to answer, the man had gone to a curse breaker, a good one but if Talon got a good enough sorcerer or sorceress they’d be able to hook themselves directly into the traces of magic left staining Hanzo’s own.
Jesse had noticed the attempt but he’d noticed almost too late and the fact that he knew the con they were pulling only made it rankle more that they’d managed to actually slip it in under his nose. The lot of them had gotten sloppy since the Fall of Overwatch and he was going to kick everyone’s asses all over a training room if they survived this.
Or, well, Genji was gonna have to do it.
Jesse took a deep breath and growled in irritation.
“Lower your weapon!” One of the grunts on the roof called and no, Jesse wasn’t going to lower his gun.
“Hey, Genji,” he said, knowing that the com was still transmitting even though it had fallen silent when the team had realized they were cornered. “You can have my media collection as long as you help Soldier kick this team back into shape. This was a stupid mistake, we shouldn’t have made it. Can you try and make it here fast enough so your brother doesn’t bleed out? That’d be great.”
“DON’T YOU FUCKING DARE, MCCREE!” And that was Commander Morrison in ever syllable of Jack’s voice.
Not Jack, easy, laid back Jack who laughed at the stupidest shit and snored like a kitten or old, tired Soldier 76 with his inability to verbalize properly but Commander Morrison ordering his agent not to take the only way out.
Jesse chuckled under his breath because he didn’t want to do this to Jack, the last bit of Gabe either of them had left. “It’s fine, it’s fine, we all knew it was coming anyway.”
“Fuck!” Jack cursed and there was the sound of an explosion in the distance.
“It’s High Noon.” Jesse breathed.
Back in Blackwatch Gabe had asked him why he’d chosen that particular phrase. It hadn’t made sense to the man, not when his most vivid memory of death was darkened back streets and the scent of burning flesh and metal.
Death wasn’t a simple thing, it meant different things for different people and Jesse was a child of the desert through and through. And in a desert the most dangerous of your enemies, the one that stayed with you day in and day out, as a constant reminder that your life was beyond fragile, was the sun.
Deadeye needed a phrase, a line that symbolised death for the person using it, that brought it to mind like nothing else did. Jesse had heard a lot of them “a shot of moonshine and a fifth of rum”, “count to three”, “midnight on a highway” but none of them had compared to the effect of his own.
The light of the desert on a cloudless day broke across the darkened sky, water fleeing the air like the weight of some curse come home to roost. One of the sniper’s yelped in surprise as Jesse pulled the hammer back on his six shooter.
Left to right, three at a time.
6 shots. Six snipers, there were probably more zeroing in on their position but if he got those six down Genji might make it there in time to save Hanzo.
The snipers on the right began to move, barely registering the shots. Sound coming after the Bullets connected but they weren’t going to be able to make it in time, Jesse was moving faster than they could check their sights.
He spun on his heel.
And here it was, last bullet, last chance for McCree to try and take his chances but no. That sight was aimed directly at his skull and not even a blind man with one arm could miss that shot. If he didn’t do this he’d be dead anyhow and Hanzo would be a sitting duck.
Jesse fired for the last time.
The sniper crumpled over the side of the roof, falling to the ground head first, skull splitting open like an overripe melon.
For one freeing, awful second when the count in his head, in his heart, sunk deep into his bones hit 0, he waited for the fire. He waited for the blaze that had taken his brothers in arms before he’d been scooped out of the desert and was given a chance to be something more than a punk ass kid whose aim was all people cared about.
He turned and Hanzo was half unconscious from blood loss behind him, life blood seeping through his fingers as he stared at the cowboy in front of him. McCree smiled and then the fire came.
It was like no fire he’d ever known and it didn’t hurt at first. It was colder than ice as it flowed up his body.
He looked at his hands, at his feet, at the blue bell sparks dancing around him. For a second he didn’t feel pain, he didn’t feel anything as the flame’s rose, catching on his clothes and scorching his skin.
“McCree.” Hanzo breathed, shock and awe stretched across his face.
“Don’t blame yourself, I knew it was comin’.” Jesse drawled and tipped his hat.
There was a breath, a moment frozen between them, more delicate than spun glass and more beautiful than a spider’s web. There was potential there, an endless well of it that pooled at their feet, rapidly drying up as the flames rose higher. Jesse had one moment to savor the taste of that potential, the endless possibility that lay between them before the pain hit.
It started off as a pinprick that made him wince, a dance of sensation, like sandpaper rubbing across his skin but that was a brief relief compared to what came next.
Burning was not a quick way to die, it wasn’t a pretty way to die either, or painless. Jesse had been injured in a dazzling variety of ways, had lived rough and on the wrong side of the law for most of his life, but the pain of being burned alive, being ripped to pieces atom by atom, the feeling of the magic in his bones shredding him to pay for 666 souls sent into Death’s hands… there was nothing like it.
Jesse didn’t think he’d be able to describe the feeling if he tried. The air caught in his throat, lungs stuttering as the flames around him ate the oxygen he needed to survive, not that he’d live through this anyway but that just added insult to injury.
“ MIJO !” A voice cried, dark and twisted, distorted by horrific damage and an owl shaped mask but Jesse recognized it nonetheless.
“Gabriel.” He choked past the scream caught in his throat.
The fire vanishes in a second of time and there was no pain anymore, the nerves all burned to ash in the space of a few seconds. He’d seen it happen before, the flash burn of fire enough to be fatal but not immediately so.
At least he wasn’t naked, even if the stitching of his cloths rubbing over his skin was probably causing more damage. Jesse wasn’t coming back from this, no one would ever be able to come back from something like this, even if Mercy was close enough the magic that tied him to Death wouldn’t let him go. He could feel it, set deep into his bones like the Bullets had been.
There were hands on his face, cold metal and leather cupping his cheek through the heat of the flames. Jesse almost sobbed in the relief of some of the pain retreating.
He opened his eyes, when had he closed them, to take in the sight of Gabriel’s face. It wasn’t a pretty sight, half his skin was gone, replaced by a twisted black substance that oozed like oil. There were too many teeth in that face, most of them not even in the deformed mouth that stretched through the black ooze like it had been slit at the sides.
The eyes were red, a deep burning red that stretched from scapula to pupil, the right one, the one set in the human half of the face was sunken, the lids gone and only the pit of his skull remaining. It was… awful and the smell was almost worse, black magic and burnt metal but it was still Gabriel.
“Litche.” Jesse laughed past the pain in his throat. “To stubborn to stay down.”
“ Mijo, no, don’t you dare die on me. ” Gabriel snarled.
Jesse laughed. “Too late.”
And then everything went black.
Hanzo tried to process what he was seeing. Jesse’s body was bad enough, watching go up in flames for no other reason than running down a counter was enough to scar anyone for life.
And then there was the liche, the liche who was currently cradling Jesse’s body and sobbing.
“MCCREE!” Soldier 76’s voice rang through the alleyway as he skidded to a stop in the opening. “Get away from him you-”
76 choked on his own breath as the liche turned to snarl at him. Spanish falling from its lips like the heavy pounding rain Hanzo had encountered the one and only time he’d been to London.
“Gabriel.” 76 breathed in disbelief, almost ignoring the no doubt foul words being flung at him as he reached up to take off his mask.
The spanish stopped, the liche freezing in place, going still in that way only the walking dead could. It stared at the face that lay under the mask, the face that Hanzo recognized because that face had been on every piece of Overwatch merchandise Genji had ever owned.
Commander Jack Morrison, the former leader of Overwatch, golden boy and poster child. Hanzo had thought the man dead and judging by the scars on his face he almost had been.
“ Jack ,” the liche said. “ You survived? ”
“Not quite,” Morrison choked out, reaching up to touch one, particular scar on the underside of his jaw.
“ Well, you certainly look better than I- ” The liche, who had to be Gabriel Reyes, or atleast what was left of him started to say.
Then there was a gasp from the body in his lap.
The next few hours were a bit of a blur as Mercy swooped in and rushed them all off to the transport that would take them back to the base. They’d both been rushed to the infirmary, Mercy’s wide eyes the only indication of how bad Jesse’s injuries actually were.
The liche had vanished at some point, only to return to Jesse’s bedside wearing a long sleeve shirt and jeans. Soldier 76 had slapped a pair of power suppressing cuffs on the liche at some point and the thing was actually less horrifying without the weird blackened mist that had been hovering around it.
Jesse wasn’t conscious for most of the panicking and yelling and Mercy very calmly bitching about how his body was defying every single thing she’d been taught in medical school. Hanzo was, Hanzo got to see the blemish free skin as the burns retreated from Jesse’s flesh without any medical intervention.
He got to feel magic that tasted older than the dragons on his arms pooled throughout the room. He got to smell the air as it began to clear itself of every scent except the flavors present on a forest floor, the dampness of green rot and clearness of fresh air.
And then, five hours later, when everyone else had left except for the liche and all that was left of Jesse’s injuries was a second degree burn running up the cowboy’s hand and over his forearm, Jesse woke up.
“Motherfucker, did anyone get the licence plate of whatever hit me?” He groaned as he tried to sit up.
The liche straightened in its seat and immediately began to curse him out in angry, angry spanish. It was strange that cursing sounded like cursing no matter what language was used to utter it.
“Now, hold on a second, my mama was a respectable woman,” Jesse interrupted after one incredibly viament sentence.
“ That is what you take away from that sentence, mijo ?” The liche sounded exasperated.
“Well, considering most of it was about me and I’m pretty darn sure I should be dead…” Jesse trailed off.
“By all rights you should be.” Hanzo piped up from his cot. “What happened on your end?”
“What makes you think there was anything going on on my end, I am pretty sure I was unconscious until two minutes ago.” Jesse shifted uncomfortably.
“I may not know what happened but I know what a trip to the spirit world looks like on both sides.” Hanso drawled.
Jesse blew out a breath and ran his uninjured hand through his hair. His expression was a mixture of tired and relieved.
“666. That was the number of bullets the Grim Reaper gave me when Deadlock’s Shaman called him up. What man would be able to kill 666 men, let alone while using all of those bullets?” Jesse fidgetted as he talked.
Hanzo felt his heart sink as he realized exactly how many people Jesse had been forced to kill, exactly how much blood stained the gunslinger’s hands. Deals with gods almost never ended well for the humans who made them, how many of his fellow gang members had Jesse watched burn up under the weight of a deal fulfilled.
“When I used up all those bullets the Grim Reaper came to drag me into the black himself.” Jesse paused, staring down at his arm. “Apparently everyone got one thing right, judgement ain’t pretty. Most souls go up or down or sideways depending on what they believe but when Death has a claim on your soul he’s the one that does the weighing.”
There was a longer silence as Jesse appeared to collect himself.
“666 bullets, 666 souls, and out of all of them Death only held 9 against me.”
“ Not truly fated to die then, fated to be judged, ” the liche said.
Jesse hummed under his breath. “More like fated to meet the god I stupidly decided to tie myself to when I was fifteen.”
“I believe fifteen year olds are entitled to a few stupid decisions.” Hanzo squirmed in an attempt to get more comfortable on the bed.
The dragons were restless, squirming under his skin like they hadn’t in years, since Genji was so cruelly taken from them by their own hands. It may not have been the three of them in control that night but Hanzo could still feel the phantom strike of blood against skin, the resistance against his blade as he sliced through flesh and bone.
He had done many stupid things in his youth and outside of it, not least of which was the fact that he’d let the elders postpone the breaking of the control spell for so long. Genji may have been more impulsive but he had been better at controlling his dragon so Hanzo hadn’t even questioned why the spell was removed from him before Hanzo. That had been truly stupid.
“ At least, ” the liche said in a voice drier than dust, “ You don’t have to worry about the count hanging over your head anymore. ”
“There is that,” Jesse said. “Could do with a smoke though.”
“ No, you aren’t going near anything fire related until that burn is healed. ” The liche leaned forward to smack Jesse on the back of the head.
“Oye! I nearly died today, I think I’m entitled to a smoke!” Jesse yelped. “Or a drink, I ain’t picky.”
Hanzo snorted in amusement.
“That is a blatant lie and once we are out of here I believe I will join you in that drink,” he muttered under his breath.
Jesse turned to beam at him and Hanzo’s heart jumped up into his throat.
Oh, oh that was just…
‘Oh no,’ Hanzo thought with dawning horror as that smile did things to his insides that Hanzo hadn’t felt since his teenage years.