“I have an embarrassin’ favor to ask of you,” Jesse says.
Hanzo stares at him expectantly, a single brow arched. “And what is that?” he asks.
“Y’see, my family might currently be under the impression that I’m bringin’ home a date for a few days next week. And, the thing is, I don’t really have one. So, I’m currently S-O-L and would really, really appreciate it if you came home with me for a few days and, uh. Pretended. To be my boyfriend.”
He stares down at his plate and jabs a fry into the enormous puddle of ketchup gathered in the center of it. If only the fry could be his hypothetical four-day boyfriend, he thinks; it would save him an enormous amount of embarrassment. It would be tastier, too.
The other man looks amused, to say the least. Goddamnit, Jesse thinks. Could he at least look a bit less smug?
“Why me?” Hanzo asks, picking at the edge of the salad in front of him with his fork. “You could ask Lena, perhaps?”
Jesse makes a face. “Too young.”
“She’s like a sister to me.”
“Too nice to be with someone like me, and my family’d know it.”
Hanzo stares at him, deadpan. “And what does that make me?” he asks stonily.
“A good fit?” Jesse offers sheepishly. “‘Sides. My family knows that I, y’know. Bat for the other team. Prefer my groceries delivered ‘round back. Horse of a different color.”
“I understand,” Hanzo says. “That being said, there are plenty of other men here.”
“Look. You ‘n I have gotten pretty close since you came here,” he says. “You’re a great man, Hanzo. I trust you with my life on the battlefield, and you’ve never failed t’ take care of it. I’d feel more comfortable takin’ you home than I would with the others.” Jesse doesn’t mention the fact that, in the time they have gotten to know each other as both comrades and individuals, he has slowly begun to feel a bit more than usual for the man. But that’s just a tiny detail; nothing he needs to relay.
He gives the archer his best beggar’s eyes, hands clasped pleadingly before him. “Please. I’m up shit’s creek right now. My mother will personally fly out here and wrap her hands around my neck if I don’t bring someone back; she’s been waitin’ so long for me to say I’m finally with someone, I just snapped and made a real big fuckin’ mess of things. ‘S just four days, quick ‘n easy. We just gotta lie our way through everythin’, then a few weeks later, when we’re far, far away from her, I’ll call and say things didn’t work out.”
Hanzo picks at his salad contemplatively for a few minutes, deep in thought.
Finally, the golden words come from his mouth.
“I will do it.”
A Cessna from Gibraltar to Sevilla, a flight from Sevilla to JFK, a hypertrain from JFK to Santa Fe, and a taxi later, a travel-weary, jetlagged Jesse and Hanzo stand at the gate that leads to the old McCree family farmhouse. Thank God they packed light, Jesse thinks. Hauling more around wouldn’t have been an enjoyable task. He eyes the three stuffed duffel bags between them -- one devoted entirely to their weapons and gear, should the need arise, the other two carrying simple clothing and other travel necessities.
Jesse looks up at the familiar ranch sign that heralds the path leading to the house. Held up by two wooden poles, a rusted, black metal horse is caught in a frozen gallop beneath letters that read McCree Ranch. He’s genuinely surprised that the sign is still standing, considering it’s three generations of McCrees old and there isn’t any real ranch to speak of anymore.
They follow the dirt trail that winds down a ways to the farmhouse, sweat trickling down their skin as the heat of the New Mexico summer sun beats down unforgivingly. Scrub brush tickles their ankles, clouds of dirt tumble by with the hot wind, and lizards scurry over hot rocks and the cracked ground. It feels like home.
Jesse can see Hanzo tug at the fabric of his clothing, obviously stifled by the heat despite the fact that half his chest is, as usual, bared to the world, unrestrained by the hot bindings of being fully clothed.
“Almost there,” Jesse says. He can see the farmhouse just down the path, slowly becoming larger and larger the more they walk.
Hanzo dips his head in acknowledgement. “This property all belongs to your family?” he asks.
“Yeah. When my Pa’s grandmother came over from Ireland, they settled here and bought the land. Started a farm. Used t’be pretty big, too -- but nobody’s much for traditional farmin’ nowadays, what with all the technology we’ve got to make the whole process faster. It’s been family land for years, though. Hard to leave ‘n move elsewhere.”
“I see,” Hanzo replies. The archer opens his mouth to say something else, but his words are cut short by a long, shrill cry of Jesse!
Nina and Sofía wave at him, matching grins gleaming, hands cupped around their mouths as they shout at him. The twins look the same as ever, their long, black hair hanging in their faces, dark eyes complementing dark skin and lips reddened by matte gloss. Everything about them is the identical -- faces, makeup, even the placements of the several piercings in their ears. Jesse thanks whatever deity is up there watching over him that they at least have it in them to wear different clothes; he’s mistaken one for the other far too often, despite the fact that they’ve been in his life for eighteen years, now.
Saoirse stands behind them, a girl of just sixteen, her shy gaze fixated on Hanzo. She’s grown a bit since Jesse last saw her, he thinks. Her wild brown curls now reach the bottom of her chin and frame her face. More freckles spatter the bridge of her nose and both rosy cheeks, a testament to time spent under the hot New Mexico sun. She’s the spitting image of their father in days gone by.
Lastly, behind all three of his younger sisters, is his Mamá. A warm smile tugs her lips upwards, and Jesse feels a pang in his chest, a burst of happiness and love and home. Even nearing her sixties in age, Mamá is beautiful; thick, black hair tumbles down her shoulders, and the small, Celtic knot necklace Pa gave her years ago gleams silver in the hollow of her throat. She wipes her hands on the hem of her dress, dusting flour from her fingertips.
Jesse puts a guiding hand at the small of Hanzo’s back -- a light touch, just enough to acknowledge to his family that yes, they are together, and are totally comfortable with gestures such as these even though he is extremely sure that he has never touched the other man for this long in the entire span of their acquaintanceship. Hanzo doesn’t flinch, surprisingly. He allows the hand on his back to press into him, a warm, guiding force.
“Oh my God, Jess!” Nina cries out, unable to restrain herself any longer from running up to wrap her arms around him. Sofía does the same, and then everyone is hugging him in a tangle of limbs and long hair and happiness. Hanzo stands stoically beside them until Mamá drags him into the hug, babbling about how happy she is that her Jesse has finally found himself someone good and how she’s excited that he has come all the way out to New Mexico to visit them. Jesse notes the surprised look on Hanzo’s face and chuckles; obviously, the man has never experienced a good, old-fashioned McCree Family Greeting before.
After a good, long hug (that Jesse senses is incredibly uncomfortable for Hanzo, judging by the look on the other man’s face), they break apart and the his family stands back to examine both he and his new (fake) partner.
“Welcome back, mijo. It is good to see you.”
Mamá’s voice is warm with tenderness and affection. Jesse smiles -- it’s been nearly a year since he last heard those words from her mouth.
“Is this the one?” she continues, gesturing toward Hanzo.
Jesse nods. “He’s, uh. Y’know.”
“I am his partner,” Hanzo steps in, smoothing over Jesse’s stumbling words. He snakes an arm around Jesse’s waist, fingers resting lightly on his hip in a display of affection that would make their ‘relationship’ obvious to the women. Huh, Jesse thinks. He’s really takin’ this seriously.
Mamá is pleased; she steps forward and rests a hand against one of Hanzo’s cheeks, pressing her lips to the opposite one in a fleeting kiss of welcome. “I am glad that you are in my son’s life. It has been a long time since he has had someone to make him as happy as you do. You should have heard him on the phone -- he was so excited!”
“Mamá,” Jesse gripes, tipping the brim of his hat down in embarrassment. He curses internally; his mother has a habit of over-exaggerating things. It’s not that he wasn’t excited -- excited to see her and the girls again, sure. Excited to bring Hanzo along? Maybe a bit, he thought. They’d become comfortable friends in the months since the archer had been drawn into the Overwatch fold.
Hanzo’s eyes flit momentarily to Jesse’s face in surprise. He looks back at Mamá and dips his head. “Yes,” he replies, and is that a smile on Hanzo’s face? Jesse wonders. “He is a very special man. Both to me, and to our companions. I am glad he is in my life, as well.”
If they hadn’t been in a fake relationship, Jesse might have actually thought Hanzo’s words were genuine. He looks behind Mamá and catches Saoirse staring at them, a fleeting smile dancing upon her lips.
“Well, it is certainly nice to meet the one making Jesse so happy,” Mamá replies. “I am Daniela, though you may call me Dani. Or Mamá, as the children do.”
“Children?” Hanzo says, mouth curved in a smooth silver-tongued smile. “I thought you were their sister.”
“Oh, you flatterer,” Mamá huffs and waves a hand dismissively. Jesse can tell she is pleased, judging by the flush that rises to her cheeks. He hadn’t pegged Hanzo for such a smooth-talker -- the man sure knew the way to his mother’s heart, and had already loosed an arrow straight toward it.
“I like him already,” Nina says. “Can we keep him?”
“We don’t even know his name yet, mija. Give him time.”
Hanzo removes his hand from Jesse’s hip, clasping both together and bowing at the waist. “I am Hanzo. It is a pleasure.”
Jesse feels the warm spot where the other man’s hand was and presses his lips together in a thin line as he feels a small pang of an unidentifiable emotion in his chest. The hand was nice, he thinks; he could get used to little gestures like that. His musing thoughts are put on pause when Sofía scoffs at him, an accusatory finger pointed in his direction.
“Eugh. You really need to shave, sasquatch. You weren’t this hairy last time you came home,” Sofía says. Jesse snorts and leans down to plant a kiss on one of her cheeks, scruff brushing her skin. “Gross!” his little sister yelps, and she wipes the area with a palm in mock disgust, unable to stifle the giggle that escapes her lips.
“Your beard does need a trim,” Mamá says. She cups Jesse’s face between her hands and examines him, thumbs brushing his bristly whiskers. “And you smell like smoke. I thought I told you to stop it with that?”
“Aw, Mamá,” he huffs sullenly.
“No, no, no. Smoking is bad for you -- and, I bet this one does not like it,” she chides, pointing a finger at Hanzo. “What do you think of my son’s filthy habit, hm?”
Hanzo wrinkles his nose, looking at Jesse sideways. “He smells like a walking ashtray,” he simply replies.
Jesse’s goes slack-jawed, one hand set to a hip as he turns to face Hanzo. “‘Scuse me?” he says, a laugh bubbling inside him. Hanzo raises a pointed brow. He’s smirking. The bastard is smirking. “I gotta deal with you always walkin’ around wearin’ that outfit like you’re straight from some kind’a half-naked Hunger Games, and you can’t handle a little smoke?”
“‘A little smoke’ is an understatement. And my outfit is a traditional garment -- unlike the questionable ensemble you prefer to wear.”
“How am I supposed to focus when we’re in the middle of battle and that chest o’ yours is starin’ me right in the face?” Jesse huffs. “And my clothes ain’t got nothin’ to do with this, anyway.”
“He has a point, though,” Nina says.
“Your fashion taste is pretty awful,” Sofía adds.
The nail in his proverbial coffin comes when quiet, little Saoirse pipes up and states, “Your hat is ridiculous.”
Jesse clutches a hand over the left side of his chest, face twisted in mock pain. “My own family and my darlin’, gangin’ up on me. I can’t believe this. Betrayal, ‘s what it is. Y’can’t crucify your own sibling like this.” He swears he sees Mamá and Hanzo roll their eyes in tandem. Nobody bothers to deign him with a response.
“Come, come,” Mamá says, allowing Jesse to keep the last shreds of his dignity by changing the subject. “You two must be tired from all of your travelling. The guest room is all made up -- go, unpack, rest for a bit. I will call when dinner is ready. ”
She walks to the front door of the house, hand resting on the doorknob. From behind it, Jesse can hear a faint scritch, scritch, scritch of something against the wood.
“Before you go, though, someone has been waiting to see you.” She opens the door, and quick as lightning, a bundle of fur bolts out.
“Cash!” Jesse cries. The dog comes bounding toward him at top speed, paws throwing up lumps of dirt and tongue lolling from the side of his mouth. Jesse bends down, arms spread wide and a stupid grin on his face; Cash is still the same, if a bit more on the elderly side, now -- a mutt of a dog with a marbled grey and tan and white coat that speaks to his Aussie side, with the inquisitive eyes and floppy ears of a Border Collie. A bright red bandana is tied around the dog’s neck, as always, marked with swirls of white-and-black paisley. His stumpy tail wags back-and-forth incessantly as he showers Jesse’s face with sloppy kisses, slobber leaving wet trails on the man’s dark skin.
Jesse runs his fingers through Cash’s fur, scritching behind the dog’s ears happily. “Hey, boy,” he says, a deep, happy laugh escaping from his lips. He glances at Hanzo, who is staring at him, completely deadpan.
“Come meet ‘im,” he says, beckoning the archer over; Hanzo’s jaw flexes as he grits his teeth, obviously wary of the dog. “He’s all bark ‘n no bite. Promise.” Jesse shoves Cash off him and points to Hanzo. “Go on, boy! New friend!”
Obviously excited by the prospect of this new friend, Cash trots over to Hanzo with a big dog-grin, tongue hanging lazily from his mouth -- and promptly shoves his snout into the archer’s crotch. Hanzo reels back, brows knit and a look of obvious disgust on his face; Jesse can’t help the shit-eating grin that dances upon his lips and the laughter that rumbles deep in his chest. For every step Hanzo takes away from the dog in a futile attempt to escape, Cash takes two more, barking happily at the man.
“Sorry, sorry,” Jesse says, thumbing a tear of laughter from the corner of his eye. “Should’a warned you. That’s how he likes to say ‘hello.’”
Hanzo draws a deep breath and gently pats the dog’s head (though it looks to Jesse more like he’s trying to shove Cash’s nose away from his goods). The girls are laughing and so is Mamá; there’s even a bare hint of a smile on Hanzo’s face, the light mood infectious. He’s missed this, Jesse thinks. Overwatch is a family to him, as well -- a family of misfits all shoved together like puzzle pieces that shouldn’t fit. He loves them, bless their hearts, and he misses all of the others when they’re apart. But being back in Santa Fe, back with his mother, his sisters, his overly-friendly dog, it all reminds him of all the good times he’s spent here. Memories of when he grew up, before getting involved with anything Deadlock-related; memories of reconciling with his parents, grateful that they allowed him back into their lives and were willing to let him help raise his sisters; and, he thinks, new memories that have yet to be made. Bringing Hanzo back here feels like a crossing of both families, the two finally becoming one. Somehow, it feels right.
And so, Jesse falls into the familiar rhythm of being home once more.
He remembers Mamá, hands on her hips, face stained by sweat and grease from a long day of work at the garage. Her thick brows were knit in disappointment; Jesse thought she looked like an angered wild animal with its teeth bared and hackles raised as she yelled at him. Beside her, Pa stood, brawny arms crossed tightly over his chest. He was the calm to Mamá’s storm, still as a statue while she raged on. But Jesse could sense his frustration. He saw it in his father’s steeled gaze, his messy brown hair and disheveled beard, the dark bags under his eyes that attested to sleepless nights. It was not the first time Jesse had seen his parents in this state, angry and anxious, waiting for him to show his face once more.
“You scared us half to death, mijo!” Mamá shouted. “Three days, you’ve been gone! Three days this time! No note, not even a call -- nothing! You leave us like this, and for what? To go riding around on a motorcycle, with a bunch of criminals and gangsters?”
“Mamá --” Jesse started, feeling anger rise within him. He was quickly cut off by his mother’s cry of, “I’m talking, now! Do not interrupt me.”
She took a step toward him, and he held his ground. But Jesse remembers that he couldn’t even bring himself to look in her eyes. Instead, he turned his burning gaze to the tiles of the floor, staring at the grout between them frustratedly.
“Your father hasn’t slept since you left, and neither have I -- do you know that? We’ve worked our whole lives to give you everything, and here you are, throwing it all away! Do you think this gang will give you even half as much as we do?”
“At least they don’t treat me like a child,” Jesse spat. “I’m fifteen, now. I’m not some little fuckin’ kid anymore.” He looked up and caught the flash of pain in his mother’s eyes.
“Then maybe you should act like it,” Mamá hissed. “What do you think these men will give you? Money? Power? They are criminals, Jesse -- and that is what you will become if you join their gang. I did not give you that gun for you to treat it this way. Like trash. I did not teach you to shoot it so you could use it to become an outlaw. A murderer. No son of mine would do that.”
Peacekeeper suddenly felt like a leaded weight in the back pocket of his jeans. His mother’s words rang in his ears; this was not the life he wanted, living in a shitty, old farmhouse and watching his parents live paycheck-to-paycheck, always struggling through life. He wanted more than this. More than Santa Fe. More than a family that didn’t understand him and a bleak existence. Thrill and infamy were within his grasp, a way to truly make something of his life. His mother and father would never understand.
“Then maybe I don’t wanna be your damn son.” he said, voice utterly calm. Without looking at either of his parents’ faces, he shouldered his pack and walked out the door, revolver heavy in his pocket. He would not look back, Jesse told himself. That life was behind him.
He’s startled from the memory by the sound of the bathroom door squeaking open.
A cloud of warm steam lazily curls from behind Hanzo, who stands beneath the doorframe. Jesse quietly chokes, breath caught in his throat, and he’s pretty sure his eyes must be bugging out of his head. Hanzo is clad is nothing, save for the towel that is dangerously low on his waist, the edges of which are held together by nothing more than his fist. His salt-and-pepper hair hangs damp around his face and shoulders, and mellow droplets of water slowly drip from his locks and trickle down the dragon that curls around the other man’s arm. Jesse’s eyes trace the V of Hanzo’s waist, gaze flitting over the dark trail of hair that starts below the other man’s bellybutton and disappears tauntingly beneath the towel. God, he thinks -- he would kill for that towel to drop right now.
He realizes how long he’s been staring when Hanzo makes a tch sound and gives him a pointed glance before moving to rummage through his duffel bag for a set of clothing.
“I seem to recall annoyance on your part earlier about how I am always half-unclothed,” Hanzo says airily.
“Well, I gotta say, I’m used to that,” Jesse replies. “This don’t seem right. I feel like I’m not s’posed t’see the other half of your chest.”
“You should accustom yourself to it, then, if we are to be together like this for three more days.”
Jesse flaps a hand dismissively. “I know, I know. ‘S just weird, is all.”
“Nothing between us can be ‘weird’ if we are to convince your family of our relationship. That is what you still want, is it not?”
“Yeah,” he replies, “yeah, it is. Listen, you don’t gotta be all touchy-feely if it makes you uncomfortable, or anythin’. I’m sure they’ll believe us well enough if we’re just, y’know. Together.”
Hanzo’s eyebrow quirks. “It does not make me uncomfortable; it seems to me that you are uncomfortable with it. Your mother and sisters are keen. I am sure they will be able to see through all that we do if we do not devote ourselves wholly to it.”
“S’pose you’re right,” Jesse mumbles. “I just didn’t want this to mess up our friendship, or somethin’.”
He receives a derisive snort in reply. “I would not be here if it were not for our friendship, Jesse. Do not worry.”
Dinner is, as always in the McCree household, a noisy affair.
Nina and Sofía rush around the table, chattering to one another as they put down place settings and hotpads on the dinner table. Hanzo seems to watch them with interest, Jesse notes.
Mamá and Saoirse lay the dishes upon the table -- they’ve made Jesse’s favorite, carne tampiqueña, and he’s excited to eat a meal cooked by his family for the first time in a long while.
Once everyone is seated and the typical pre-meal prayer has been said, they dig in like a pack of hungry hyenas. Conversation is amicable, at first -- simple questions about how life has been, where Hanzo is from, what his family is like; Hanzo answers some and glosses over others.
“Okay, woah,” Nina finally says, holding a hand up in a ‘stop’ motion. “Pump the brakes. I’ve been wondering -- Is this real?”
She pokes Hanzo’s tattooed bicep with a single manicured nail, prodding the dragon’s scaled belly that curls around his arm. For a moment Jesse if terrified that the dragons might suddenly decide they’d like to pop out of Hanzo’s arm and bite off Nina’s invading finger. He’s seen enough shit happen in battle to know that he should be exceedingly wary of them. But, he realizes -- there’s no glowing. No telltale growl, no weird Shimada voodoo. Just Hanzo, looking mildly uncomfortable as Nina jabs at his tattoo.
“Yes, it is real,” Hanzo murmurs in reply. He fixes Nina with his trademark thousand-yard stare, a gaze that Jesse has seen make even some of their hardiest comrades (Reinhardt) uneasy. Nina doesn’t flinch; she simply quirks one brow and snaps her gum nonchalantly at Hanzo, nodding approvingly.
“Damn, Jess. Where’d you find this one?”
“No cursing in this house,” Mamá scolds, and Nina simply purses her lips in reply.
Jesse scratches the back of his head sheepishly, feeling a bit of secondhand embarrassment at his sister’s antics. “He works with me,” he replies to Nina, who shoots him a look of surprise.
“Like. With Overwatch?”
Hanzo’s head whips around, staring at Jesse with slightly parted lips, his entire face reading seriously?
“They know what I do, sweetcheeks,” Jesse mutters to the other man. “Gotta be honest with ‘em.”
“It’s not like we’d tell anyone, anyway,” Sofía huffs, arms crossed over her chest. “Overwatch got shut down when we were kids. We know you guys are totally illegal now. We don’t want to, like, accidentally indict our big brother, so don’t worry.”
Hanzo dips his head in quiet understanding -- though, from the corner-eyed stare Jesse’s getting, he suspects a call to Winston will be made later that night and he will be sat down for a long talk about compromising security and keeping secrets when they return to home base.
“So, how did you two come to truly know each other?”
The question inevitably comes from Mamá, who Jesse knows has been chomping at the bit to ask it. She’s a romantic at heart, and given the amount she’s pestered him over the years to finally settle down with someone, he knows she is excited to hear all of the juicy details of their relationship. Or, he thinks, the lack thereof.
“Well, like I said, we work together,” Jesse begins. “His brother actually worked with Overwatch for a long while, and came back when the rest of us did. Extremely long story short, Hanzo ended up joinin’ the crew, too.”
“We were sent on many missions together, over the span of several months. Living in the same area within a relatively small base of operations brought us closer, as well.” Hanzo, once more, smoothly picks up where Jesse leaves off. “One mission in particular, I remember well. We were in Egypt, outnumbered by enemy forces. He was injured by one of them -- a gunshot, to the abdomen. I remember.. How do you say it in English? Seeing red?”
Jesse frowns. This isn’t some made-up meet-cute story, he thinks. He remembers this mission distinctly; his hand ghosts over the pink starburst scar that now mars his stomach, a memory of the day.
“Thankfully, the rest of our team managed to provide us with aid, and we escaped,” Hanzo continued. “Narrowly. I was frightened; wounds are common in battle, and never before had I felt this way when he had gotten injured. I contemplated my feelings for a long time and realized how much I truly felt for him. He had become more than just a friend to me.”
Mamá’s hands are on her cheeks, and she coos at the story. “Mijo,” she says to Jesse, “you have truly found yourself a wonderful man.”
From the corner of his eye, Jesse looks at Hanzo confusedly, wondering how much of the story had been true; the other man does not meet his eyes, instead staring at his plate of food and poking at the meat with the tines of his fork.
Later, as he and Hanzo stand side-by-side at the sink and wash the dishes from dinner, shoulders just barely brushing, Jesse thinks about what a terrible idea this was. Conflicting feelings and odd, new desires rage within him; he wonders if he will be able to spend three more days in this new state of closeness with the man he has secretly pined for for so long.