“Something is troubling you so.”
You gave a heavy sigh as you opened your eyes and looked over at the meditating omnic. He hadn’t moved since you’d entered the room, having known you meant no ill-will, nor were you there to disturb his meditation. Your presence was a common occurrence, enough that he accepted and enjoyed your quiet company, even encouraged you to continue coming back time and again when you felt overwhelmed or just needed a calm, quiet place to relax.
Just because he hadn’t moved, however, didn’t mean he couldn’t tell something was wrong, that you weren’t able to fully ease yourself, both physically and mentally. Zenyatta had always been extremely good at picking up when you weren’t feeling at your best.
“That obvious, huh?”
“You seem tense, unable to relax, even in this tranquil environment. Perhaps there is something on your mind?”
This time, Zenyatta turned to face you, hands folding in his lap and head tilting ever so slightly. You now had his undivided attention. Sighing once more, you twisted yourself around until you were facing him and gave a timid smile.
“Yeah, I guess there is. It’s…it’s stupid, really.”
“Sometimes, what we deem frivolous thoughts or actions can turn into wondrous opportunities for learning and growing.”
He always knew what to say to get you to open up. Your small smile turned into an unsure frown, mind recalling the events of the day.
You and a few others were on a mission, more for scouting out the area than actually engaging in any hostile activity. The enemy was expecting you, however, and shit went south from there.
Everyone had been scattered, and with you acting more as support than any real offense, your chances weren’t looking so good on your own. You’d done what you could, took out a few enemies while sneaking around in hopes of finding someone on your team.
McCree ended up finding you down an alley just as you had taken down yet another operative. He’d looked equal parts pleased and relieved to find you; you were thanking every God above that he was still in one piece and looked relatively unscathed.
“Sure am glad to see you, puddin’” he’d said with that damned saucy smile of his and a crinkle of his eyes. You remember making a face at him as he approached, one to show your disdain for the pet name he’d chosen to give you at that point in time. You even had a retort to lash out at him playfully with….
And then you’d spotted the operative taking aim behind him, and all pretenses of being playful had gone out the window.
It was a split-second decision, one you would have made all over again, if given the opportunity. You called out to McCree as you raised your weapon to the man taking aim. The operative’s attention quickly turned to you in panic, as you became the immediate threat, and took three shots.
By some miracle, the first two had missed you completely, one of them whizzing by your head and embedding itself in the brick building behind you. The last one, however, drilled deep into your shoulder until all you knew at that point in time was a blinding, searing pain radiating from the impact and along your nerves.
You would later learn, after your lover had swiftly taken out the enemy, that McCree had taken the second shot near his ribs, the bullet thankfully only grazing him. That saucy look from before had completely disappeared from his visage; instead, he had turned to glaring at you as he led you to a secluded area where you had enough time and cover to patch yourself up temporarily, refusing your aid until you had gotten yourself in order. Even then, he was quick to usher you along, and you had moved nearly three blocks before you finally put your foot down and demanded he stop long enough for you to patch him up, as well.
The team regrouped shortly after that, and though you were successfully able to drive back the enemy, there was a lingering tension between you and McCree that followed you all the way back to HQ. It was a heavy tension, one that had been building for weeks and had finally come to a head, made worse by the silence neither of you were willing to break. The longer it lingered, the more nervous you felt, a strange and unpleasant feeling of nausea overcoming you.
Then came the crash, the cut in the line in the form of an argument gone south, and you had never known such a feeling of helplessness as in that moment. The tension had broken into an ugly mess of cruel words and angry accusations, and the aftermath left you unsure if you would be able to mend whatever had been broken between you.
“It’s been building for a while, but I did something during our last mission that made McCree lash out at me. He said I was being reckless again, but I was only doing what felt right at the time. I got hurt; he did, too. But if I had done nothing, he would've been severely hurt, or…or worse.”
“Have you spoken with him on the matter?” Zenyatta asked, as calm and patient as ever.
“Not at first. He was angry, and I think part of me was, too. We had a big fight before I came here, which usually isn’t a big deal. He gets mad, I get mad, we have a few choice words for each other, and then we’re good to go. But, this time, something changed. It feels more permanent, it…it hurts more.”
“Did something happen during your argument?”
“I…I don’t know,” you lamented quietly, voice coming out small and helpless. You could feel the stirrings of tears in your eyes, the burn of them wetting the corners as you fought back the urge to let them out.
Zenyatta gave a soft hum, the sound a gentle comfort to your ears.
“Oftentimes, there are things we say in anger to hide what we really mean, what we really feel. As difficult as it may be, look back on your argument. Is there anything that stands out? Perhaps there is something between the words and anger that you missed.”
You nodded at the omnic, hands coming up to wipe at the tears bubbling up and threatening to spill. You took in a deep breath, held it a moment, let it out slowly. Then, you thought back to your argument with McCree, how he shouted angrily and scowled and glared at you through the whole thing.
Or maybe…maybe that wasn’t a scowl, but a grimace. Maybe his glare was filled with concern and wasn’t as heated as you first thought. Maybe his shouts weren’t meant out of anger, but out of fear of what could have happened had you taken all three shots as you had intended.
Maybe there was something McCree was trying to say, but didn’t know how to say it, and hiding behind the anger of the moment was easier.
“Ain’t you listenin’ to a damn word I’m tellin’ you? You can’t keep doin’ such reckless things. I ain’t gonna be there t’save your ass every time.”
“Lord above, listen to me! My life don’t mean a damn thing if all you’re attemptin’ to do is snuff out your own!”
“I can’t keep havin’ you do shit like that, not when I ain’t around, not when you could easily…where I could easily…. Just forget it.”
What was Jesse McCree trying to tell you?
All at once, it hit you, like a freight train going ninety miles an hour. It made sense, it all made sense, now. His mounting concern, the anger he hid behind, your own feelings of anxiousness and despair during and after the argument…how could you have been so blind? How could you have missed all the signs?
“Ah, there it is. You’ve figured it out.”
You looked up at Zenyatta, eyes wide with enlightenment. You didn’t know how the omnic did it, but he always came through for you. Even when you didn’t understand something, he was always able to lead you in the right direction.
“Thank you,” you said, voice airy as you stood, giving a respectful bow. “I’m sorry to leave so suddenly, but…I have to go.”
“As you should. Your presence is always welcome beside me, at any moment, should you need a quiet place, or a receptive friend.”
If the omnic could smile, you were sure he would be doing so now. You gave your own before rushing out of the room and through the halls, turning down the one that led to the private quarters. You slowed to a steady walk until you reached the last door on the right, pausing before the darkly colored metal.
Should you knock? You’d been sharing a room for months now, but now you felt as if you might not even be welcome. Hell, you weren’t even sure he was inside, nor were you certain he wanted you anywhere around him until he had completely calmed down, and you didn’t know how long that would take. The nervous tension in your stomach returned, but you refused to back down now knowing what you knew.
As a precaution, you gave a few, gentle raps against the door with your knuckles before opening it, entering the room.
McCree was sitting on the bed with the light of a single lamp illuminating the small space around him, having removed the poncho, chest plate, all his ammo and weaponry, and, surprisingly, his hat from his person. His flesh hand, bare from its leather accessory, rested heavily on a bottle of amber colored liquor he’d procured on his last visit to southern America, a shot glass standing, empty, beside it.
It’s the stronger stuff, flavored, good and smooth, he insisted when showing you the fancy looking design on the bottle, whether whiskey or bourbon, you couldn’t remember. He never drank heavily, much to your relief, only a shot now and then when he felt extremely stressed or needed to relax. How fitting he had it out now.
“Jesse,” you called out quietly, cringing slightly at the way your voice carried across the quiet room. For a moment, he didn’t acknowledge your presence, continued to stare down at the bottle as if contemplating another shot.
When you called out to him again, he turned to pin you with a glare, though this time you were paying attention. This time, you could see that his stare wasn’t nearly as heated, more weary than anything. The look still managed to make your chest feel tight, your heart feeling ambushed by uncertainty and the fear that things might not be okay.
“Didn’t I already make myself clear? I ain’t in no mood for more arguin’.”
“I didn’t come to argue,” you said, keeping your gaze steady on the man before you. His eyes narrowed briefly before he gave a gruff sort of noise, turning back to stare down the bottle of liquor.
“Why’d you come, then?”
You took that opportunity to move forward, steps quiet on the smooth flooring, stopping only when you stood directly in front of the cowboy. His eyes remained adamantly turned away from you.
“I’m sorry, Jesse,” you began in a murmur, hand coming up to gently caress the side of his face, lightly scratching against the beard that tickled your fingertips. “I get it now, why you were angry, why you still probably are. I understand, and I’m sorry. It wasn’t my intention to be reckless; I only wanted to help.”
A quiet pause passed between you for what felt like forever on your end. Then, with a heavy sigh, McCree turned to you, eyes at half-mast and looking every bit haggard, defeated. He reached up to press your hand more firmly against his cheek, the cool metal of his prosthetic a promising, welcoming feeling.
“Oh, sugar,” he replied, using his other hand to pull you closer between his legs, head leaning forward to rest comfortably just below your breasts. “I ain’t mad at you, never was. I can’t tell you why I yelled like that. I was just worried, is all, and stressed. Seein’ you get hurt like that just set me off. ‘m sorry for yellin’.”
“I know,” you said, carding your fingers through his unruly hair as a feeling of relief flooded through your system, unleashing the coil of worry and fear wound tight in your chest. This time, you couldn’t keep your tears from falling, you were just so relieved that things were going to work out, that what you had first thought to be something signaling the end of your relationship with the cowboy was only masking the beginning.
“There’s…there’s other ways to tell someone you love them other than shouting, you know.”
You weren’t sure if it was the waver of your voice, an obvious sign of your weeping, or the words you had spoken, but suddenly McCree was looking up at you with the most tender gaze you had ever seen on the man.
“Oh, pumpkin,” he said reverently, and you couldn’t help but laugh a bit, despite your tears.
“Pumpkin? Are you calling me fat and orange, now?”
“Only if it’s comin’ across as ‘I love you.’” He was looking up at you as if he was seeing an angel and couldn’t look away. It was enough to bring on a fresh set of tears, ones he was more than happy to wipe away from your cheeks.
“In that case, I wanna be the biggest, fattest, most orange pumpkin out there.”
You leaned down to wrap your arms around his neck, forehead pressing against his own. His hands remained against either side of your face, thumbs tracing along your cheeks gently, wiping away errant tears that found their way down your skin. You stayed like that for a long while, just basking in having each other close.
“I love you, too,” you whispered within the small, intimate space between you, feeling your heart jump in your chest as you said the words aloud. They felt right rolling off your tongue, sounded sure and steady in your ears even with the quietness of the proclamation.
McCree must have agreed, as he shifted you even closer to press his mouth to yours, his lips feeling just slightly on the side of chapped and absolutely wonderful against your own.
The kiss was slow and tender. There was no rush to build up a fiery inferno; there would be time for that later. Now was the moment of two people coming together in their mutual affections, drinking in the love both given and received. Tongues touched, caressed, and you could faintly taste the alcohol (cinnamon flavored whiskey, as it turned out) and the smoky undercurrent of the last cigar he’d indulged in some time ago.
When he pulled away, it was only to peck your lips with sweet, gentle presses a few more times, a soft smile remaining on his lips. You couldn’t help but grin down at him like a loon, and that was okay.
Everything was okay, now. Especially since you were two fools in love.