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As We Were Intended To Be

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There is an old church in Santa Fe that once belonged to the McCree family for generations. Though it survived the Omnic Crisis, it could not survive neglect over the passage of time. The windows are boarded, the mahogany podium is knocked over. Worn bibles with fingerprints molded into the leather cover are scattered around the dust filled floor. A small fountain once filled with holy water now runs dry. Rumbles of friendship, laughter, and gambling from the bar next door can be heard through the half-open entryway; a striking contrast to the deserted holy grounds.

The target is the crumbling statue of Mary surrounded by broken candlesticks at the front. Ten year old Jesse McCree weeps quietly as he wraps his mother’s serape closer to his body to fend off the cold draft. His father, Ernesto, stands beside him, revolver aimed with steady brown fingers and a steadier heart. The tears in his eyes do not fall like Jesse’s and grief flares his nostrils. Jesse whimpers and tugs at the hem of Ernesto’s jeans. To see his father wallow in despair makes him anxious.

“Listen to me, tesoro.” Ernesto quickly dries Jesse’s wet cheeks and nudges him away. Jesse’s safety always comes first. His baby boy, his only child. “God has a hitman disguised as a demon—always watching, always knowing. Do you know what their name is?” Once-vibrant curls stick to his sweaty forehead. The bags beneath his eyes are as dark as the shadows that lap at his feet.

“N-No.” Jesse hides behind a collapsed bench as his father squeezes the trigger. He covers his ears and flinches when the bullet pierces Mary’s porcelain heart.

Ernesto lowers the smoking revolver and presses a kiss to his rosary.

“Deadeye.” His voice is broken. He is a hollow man, gloom squeezing between the emotion and the response. “And no one survives a shot from them.”



[There are sinners, and there are saints. Deadeye is neither.]

Chapter Text

The new day begins. Twinkling stars fade into one. Early morning sunlight trickles over rocks and blue water before making its way to the shore. It ultimately stops at the soles of Jesse McCree’s running shoes and warms his shadow. Despite the cool breeze, his brown face is drenched with sweat. There are complaints gathering on the tip of his tongue that refuse to leave his mouth lest his lungs give out. He trips a couple of times, rolling onto his shoulder to avoid falling face-first into the sand. Jesse grits his teeth, rubs his hands clean on his pants, and continues on. He’s been through worse.

1...2...3...

Jesse counts the waves that almost reach his feet and retreat back in some odd game of tag. It keeps him grounded, anchored to the middle. He feels like he is at the periphery of dream and reality; sleep tries to wrap him in wax, cement, polyester, and soon his eyelids grow heavy before he can fight it off. He trips again, and a curse vibrates from his throat before he can stop it. Jesse wheezes and regains his footing with ragged breaths. Perhaps rest is in order.

Breathe in, he inhales, breathe out, he exhales.

He plops on the golden sand, uncaring that some finds its way into his sneakers, and he brushes aside the wet strands of hair sticking to his forehead. There’s an ache in his shoulder and a Hail Mary making its way through the small spaces between his teeth. Jesse watches the sun finish its ascent from its end—the horizon mourning the loss as the bright rays welcome the first day of March to disgruntled workers and infants who wake their parents. The ocean glitters where it meets the sky, and he thinks Santa Fe could never have a view quite like this.

The sand he sinks his hands into transforms to tall, unkempt grass. They’re long enough to reach his knees, to even drown him where he sits. It becomes hard to breathe, weeds twisting around his lungs. His childhood home is behind him, ruined by old age, covered in vines that consume the porch in green. A single push of the wind would make it all collapse. The floorboards will probably turn to ash if he takes a single step upon them. He looks to the right and knows exactly where his mother is buried.

A single drop of rain makes it all scatter into sawdust and bitterness. Jesse bites his tongue when the second drop hits his nose. Then comes the sudden, merciless downpour. He is on his feet within a split second, running towards the nearest shelter, lamenting over his drenched clothes. The soles of his sneakers squish and squeak once they touch pavement. He eventually finds solace underneath the awning of a closed coffee shop. A single sharp exhale from him morphs—or at least he thinks it does—into a clap of thunder. Gray fills a once colorful sky. For a moment, there is an ache in his chest.

The streets are deserted aside from a passing hovercar or two. He whistles lowly at a speeding remodeled 1951 Mercedes-Benz that sharply skirts a corner. The 1950s aesthetic encompassing Gibraltar’s technology always strikes him as odd, even a little amusing. The once British territory now belongs to the United States, serving as a lookout over the Mediterranean since most of Gibraltar’s population had been lost in the Omnic Crisis. Gibraltar houses U.S. Army officials and their families, along with Overwatch agents. The citizens that had survived cling to the half ruined land, wishing to see it at its former glory. The Watchpoint that now resides on the Rock of Gibraltar serves as a symbol of hope and reconstruction.

Captain Reyes had joked about his cowboy getup fitting right in, mentioning a group of Omnics who run an antique video store. Jesse would rather shoot his own foot than step through the door.

You’ll find your Wild West there, mijo, Jesse inwardly mimics him. High-pitched. Exaggerated. Sounds nothing like Gabriel, actually. Many doubt Jesse is actually twenty seven.

The roll of his eyes is accompanied by another clap of thunder. Jesse’s fingers twitch for a cigarillo, the curling and movement of his fingers resembling a piano player. The rain doesn’t look like it will stop soon. His shoulders slump, and his fingers tap to a broken funeral march on his thigh. No phone, no Peacekeeper—he’s trapped. Running back to the watchpoint is a death sentence and a week in bed with a sore throat along with a fussing Angela constantly looming over him. Gabriel and Ana are already lecturing him about his health before he even arrives, parental concern weaving through syllables and vowels. Jesse sniffs at the ridiculousness of it all before he turns to his left almost instinctively. He licks his lips. Something draws him in.

There is someone approaching in the distance.

The green umbrella contrasts heavily against the dull and dreary atmosphere. Hope within the melancholy. The orange and gray of an Overwatch uniform catches his eye, and he tries not to scowl. The hope shatters. The Blackwatch symbol on his drenched shirt burns above his right bosom. He can already hear the sneer in the stranger’s voice and see the Holier-Than-Thou expression on their face. Jesse doubts the person has even seen him, but the anxiety over any possible confrontation leaves him irritated and mistaking the sweat on his palms for rainwater. He becomes increasingly aware of the amount of sand in his running shoes.

“Do you require assistance?”

It sounds more like intended judgement than abrupt politeness. Jesse’s mouth becomes dry, full of sand maybe. He has no idea how the person appeared before him so quickly, so silently. Not even the vibration of a footstep was felt. He takes a good look at the stranger’s face and sees a flash of green.

“Did you hear me?” the person—no, robot—asks slowly, head tilted. Voice distorted by metal. He silently questions Jesse’s intelligence. “Do you require—?”

“I know damn well what you said.” Jesse clicks his tongue and crosses his arms. Annoyance, irritation. He gathers the strength to look the Omnic up and down. “Didn’t know Overwatch accepted your kind. You new?”

The robot’s grip on the umbrella tightens. The shoulders tense, still as an old tree. “I am a cyborg, not an Omnic. I joined several months ago.” He sneers cyborg as if it’s the word capable of bringing fire and brimstone.

“No kiddin’?” Jesse scratches the side of his face. He takes a step forward. Anxieties wash away with the rain. Cautious fascination replaces it. “You’re the stray Angela brought in from Okinawa’s Watchpoint, right?”

“Genji,” he snaps, head turning away from Jesse as if it ails him to take another look. He reveals no last name, maybe there is not one to give. “Do you require assistance or not?” the impatience in his tone is sharper than any sword. Genji wants to do nothing but leave him there.

Yet he does not.

“Yeah, yeah,” Jesse laughs softly and steps under the umbrella; his soles obnoxiously squeak some more, “I require assistance.” He notices that he is taller than Genji, and he smartly keeps that information to himself.

Best be kind with my savior, he mentally tips his nonexistent hat.

They walk in silence to the Rock of Gibraltar. Jesse tries and fails to attempt conversation; syllables crash and burn as they fall from his lips and down to his feet where they meet a watery grave. He asks too many questions yet feels he does not ask enough. Can you smell the morning dew? Are you able to feel the sand if you were to grab it?  Genji isn’t having any of it, preferring to face forward and not humor him in the slightest. Jesse sucks his teeth and once again craves for the cigarillo tucked in his bedroom drawer. A warm shower sounds like heaven right about now. His bed is Mass—the sheets are softer than the pages of any bible he has ever felt.

He takes another look at Genji and ultimately keeps his mouth shut.

A pitiful exchange of farewells takes place when they arrive at the fuel storage warehouse. They receive strange looks from passing agents, but they do not stop to eavesdrop. Jesse shifts and inwardly hums the funeral march. A song he’s heard far too many times, engraving itself in every part of his person.

“Do not bother with gratitude,” Genji mutters firmly, already walking away without a glance back. His posture is rigid, and it’s almost as if every part of his being refuses to arrive at his destination. Two words resonate within his mind: Turn back.

“Jesse!” he cups his hands over his mouth as he watches Genji grow farther and farther.

Genji stops. The grip on the umbrella slackens, fingers no longer gripping for dear life. Confusion.

“Name’s Jesse!” Jesse repeats before wiping away the rainwater on his face with his arm. Genji doesn’t acknowledge him and resumes walking. Jesse shakes his head with a sharp inhale of disappointment and runs towards the direction of the Blackwatch quarters.

Guess cyborgs aren’t really known for their manners, he thinks as he jumps over a deep puddle.

When Jesse dumps the sand out of his shoes, he swears he sees specks of glittering green hiding between the grains.

 

 

 

The months slowly pass without a sight of Genji. Jesse almost forgets he exist, wondering if the cyborg was just his imagination, disintegrating along with his broken home and unkempt grass. Yet he can’t stop seeing the familiar green whether it’s in the glass of a vending machine or his own dreams. He realizes his daily rituals are repetitive, only broken by the urgency of a mission. His early morning runs remain unbothered, and it keeps him focused. Too many times he has slipped between the cracks, and Gabriel is starting to notice.

Some things are best if kept in darkness

Only true before the dawn

Jesse’s face hurts when his skin drags against the asphalt as he twitches and struggles to pull himself away from the ground. He is unsure where he is or what has happened. He can hear the echo of his pounding heart as it slams against his rib cage. His breaths are ragged, a sharp staccato that constricts his lungs, and maybe this will be the day he finally dies. The sky is bright, but there is no sun. He hears rain, but he cannot feel it. He turns to see an empty porch with the radio playing on its steps. The looming house is the only thing in sight. He has an odd feeling that he's being judged; the road before the Gates begins here, but the journey is almost impossible.

Ghost ships, silent, deathly sting

Before the canon storm

Jesse shakily stands once his knees are in order. His hands are scraped, and his jaw hurts. Sounds like a regular day at the bar, if someone asks, a Thursday night where punches are thrown over insulted mothers and spilled drinks. His face aches from the cold, and the cold makes his body itch for coffee. His feet carry him in a random direction, dragging on the road as a damp, earthy smell fills his nostrils. A lone figure with a cape flapping, despite no hint of a breeze, appears in the distance, almost out of nowhere. The owl mask drips with black poison that scatters into clouds of smoke before it can reach the ground. Shadows form at his feet and somehow, they're alive, laughter echoing from the deepest darkness and digging itself into the soil where the dead are buried. The stranger points sharp claws stained with blood at Jesse and then drags their thumb slowly across their neck: Death comes.

A voice pushes through with the volume of a choir: "Shit, McCree!" 

He blinks, and he is kneeling in the middle of the training grounds in Grand Mesa. His hands are clasped as if he's begging for mercy.

“McCree?" Gabriel is in front of him, frowning with concern while he pats Jesse's face. His dark eyes flash in panic when all he continues to see are glassy eyes staring back at him. "Jesse!”

“Wha’sa matter?” Jesse slurs, barely able to keep his head up. Everything seems to rush in all at once: Gabriel's cologne, the dust particles gleaming like fake stars where the sun shines through the windows, and his hat is no longer on his head.

Gabriel clicks his tongue and uses his index finger to raise Jesse’s chin. No visible wounds. “I found you here just staring into space. I’ve been calling you for a while.”

Jesse’s lips twitch, attempting a smile that almost hurts, to soothe Gabriel’s worries and even his own. He curls his hands around his thighs, as if he could claw the shivery feeling out from under his skin.

He lies.

“Think I saw heaven.”

 

 

 

Jesse hates using Deadeye, or rather, becoming Deadeye. This is a known fact and an often ignored one. He recalls the expressions of terror when his fellow Blackwatch agents tell the stories of what he is capable of. How ruthless and inhuman he is. Jesse laughs and thinks they can all go to hell right with him. His August is a mess of resent and loneliness, and he can only pray that September treats him right.

But much to his chagrin, on the eve of the fall equinox things don’t get any better. A rough night, no different than the others. Storm clouds gather in Jesse’s eyes and outside the window of the rundown hotel. Another nightmare. He mentally brushes it off with quivering fingers.

Reyes still snores soundly across the room, wrapped up in several blankets to protect himself from the chill of King’s Row. His head of curly hair peeks out from underneath, and it’s almost cute. Reyes would kill him if ever said that out loud.

Jesse presses his pillow against his own ears. Too many things creak, too many ghosts speak within the cracks of the drywall. The Alderworth Hotel is far too alive for his taste despite its history of bloodshed. He’s absolutely sure someone is getting murdered in the basement right at this moment. Jesse hopes they’ll keep the noise down.

He turns, and his warm sheets grow into tall grass. Jesse sighs— here we go again —as he sits up, staring at the tree with the tire swing whose rope has snapped one too many times. His father called it a safety hazard, his mother called it a thrilling risk. If he strains his ears he can hear her laughing, twirling about in her white sundress as she hums some tune she heard on the gospel radio station. His grandmother is probably mumbling to herself as she waves her fan to dispel the summer heat. He looks towards the porch and sees the empty rocking chair moving by itself.

Jesse falls backwards onto linen.

Memories haunt him far more than any poltergeist, any devil, any demon. His own mind is no longer his playground; it coils around him like a snake, ready to squeeze tight, to kill. He has not heard his mother’s voice in many years, although it’s as clear as if she hugged him this morning. Jesse sucks his teeth and aims his index finger at the broken ceiling fan. Bang. Deadeye watches, Deadeye knows all.

When Gabriel awakens an hour later, he finds ‘b bck l8r ’ messily scrawled on a sticky note stuck to his forehead. He is unamused.

A couple of blocks away from the hotel, Jesse grabs a lamp post and spins around it once, pursing his lips to refrain from singing showtunes. The streets are unsurprisingly empty at seven in the evening. Overwatch activity increases in September, using England’s gray and dread as cover. Blackwatch merely watches from the shadows, ready to pounce. Crime never stops in King’s Row. The innocent hide in their homes, the unlucky ones lie in overfilled morgues. The big, bad, and ugly all come out to play. They elegantly manipulate the bloodied puppet strings as they smile with their diamond encrusted teeth.

Jesse looks up and wonders why it has not begun to rain.

“It is foolish to wander these streets alone, Agent McCree.” A mist of mocking words flow through a mechanical filter. Sparkle of green. Genji.

“Shucks,” McCree licks his lips as he removes his hat from his head, ”I don’t recall ever givin’ you my last name.”

Genji rolls his shoulders as he steps out from an alleyway. The black hoodie he wears is far too big, reaching past his fingertips. He rolls them up when he notices Jesse’s stare. “You have made quite a ruckus in the last couple of months. A shootout with the Ivory Cobalts and you killed six men with only four rounds.” Disbelief fogs behind his visor.

Jesse works his jaw and sees six men standing behind Genji. They all line up with crosses burned into their necks, their eyes closed, their guns not drawn. He takes a deep breath and they all fall one by one to their knees. Blood pours from each right eye. Deadeye never protects, Deadeye only kills. “I’d prefer not to talk about it.” He puts his hat back on his head and clears his throat. “Whatcha doing here?”

If Genji hears the stiffness in his vocal chords or the shudder before the second sentence, he says nothing about it. The cyborg instead tilts his head and stares towards the starless sky. “Cinders has been spotted within the Underworld, he has a weapons trade tonight.” He speaks like Reyes when he stands in the middle of the debriefing room.  

“With who?” Jesse’s eyebrows raise. Beer belly, stained dress shirt, overly gelled hair—Cinders was better off staying in the shadows. Pigs in a dress look far better than he does on a good day. If he is to crawl out of whatever hole he was born in, his client must be important.

Genji becomes silent as he looks from the sky and to a passing Omnic. They keep their head down, burying their face into the blue scarf wrapped around their neck. A precious gift. Genji scrutinizes every footstep, every twitch, every glow. He is nothing like them. “A representative of the Shimada clan,” he remarks after a hint of hesitation once the Omnic turns the corner. The name means more than he lets on.

Jesse taps his heel against the ground, and the jingling of his spurs fill the air. He grins and pushes his hair out of his eyes. “Got room for a partner?”

The cyborg takes a step back, his mouth—if he possesses one, Jesse wonders—probably hangs open in shock. It is quite amusing how expressive a mask of metal is. “A-Absolutely not. This is not a Blackwatch mission.” His voice becomes like stone; he regards Jesse as an annoying fly. He wants nothing more than to be left alone.

“You’re goin’ to go in there by yourself?” Jesse frowns and worry lines appear on his forehead. He cares too much. Best let it go, but he refuses to. “Sounds like suicide to me.” He says matter-of-factly.

Jesse’s remark dissipates into the chimney smoke above a house as Genji mulls over them. They stare at each other relentlessly, tension thicker than the blood Jesse is so used to feeling on his fingers. Genji assesses him, taking in every inch of his body, looking for any reason to tell him no. Lowering his head, Genji mutters something about pain in the asses and stubborn Americans.

In the end he walks forward until they are shoulder to shoulder. “As long as you keep up, Agent McCree.” He taps Jesse’s hat with his knuckles. There is a challenge behind his tone.  

Jesse lets all the two hundred and six bones in his body fall into place as he releases the breath he held.

Genji’s footsteps are light as he breaks into full speed. Jesse inhales sharply and follows after him immediately. He grins at the flash of green the visor emits. Genji does not want him to lose the chase. It’s a little flattering, or maybe he’s wrong and Genji plans on leaving him stranded. Several times Genji jumps ahead, gliding through the air as if he possesses wings. Elegance is found in every part of his artificial body.

Through his soft wheezes, Jesse remembers the little sparrow that always slept on his windowsill back in New Mexico.

What feels like hours of running abruptly and fortunately stops when Jesse is grabbed by the arm and slammed against the wall of an alley. Jesse grunts as his mouth comes in contact with a leather glove and the smell of strawberries. He becomes aware that Genji is a little too close, and Jesse is not sure why Genji has placed himself between his legs.

“Do not say a word,” Genji whispers harshly as he points to the right with his now unsheathed katana; an area full of scaffolds and construction signs. The most predictable place to sell illegal weapons. Go figure.

Jesse feels an undeniable urge to press his hand against Genji’s chest to see if there is a heartbeat.

Genji’s hand is slowly removed from Jesse’s mouth, and he takes a step back to allow Jesse to breathe. Jesse bites his chapped bottom lip, not quite hard enough to draw blood, as he turns slowly. War will erupt with the flicker of green, and Jesse has the opportunity to see a cyborg in action. It is almost exciting.

“What’s the plan, cyborg chief?” Jesse removes his hat to run his fingers through his sweaty hair. He makes a disgusted expression as he wipes his wet fingers on his shirt.

Genji’s grip on the hilt of his katana tightens. It simply becomes an extension of his arm. “The Shimada representative dies, we take Cinders in.” One word traps him within rope, burning deep within his artificial body: Duty.

He disappears without waiting for an answer from Jesse. Mere seconds pass before gunfire erupts. Jesse runs as fast as he can towards the direction Genji pointed to, Peacekeeper already out of its holster and ready to add another soul to its long list of dead. When he arrives Genji already has his katana through the chest of a man wearing a business suit that’s more expensive than Overwatch’s largest base. The kill is personal, intimate. Genji quickly removes his blade and jumps towards his next victim, one of Cinders’ goons that got a little too confident with a pistol. He deflects several bullets with ease. Speaking of Cinders, the man hollers as he points at Genji, demanding his head and his identity. A foolish king rightly afraid for his life.

“What kind of idiot runs around killing people with swords while wearing a sweatshirt?!” a man with a large burn scar on the side of his face yelps as he dodges a swipe that could have removed his whole arm.

Genji dispatches three more men as Jesse simply watches in awe. The precise grace and flow of a skilled warrior. Yet there is anger, uncontrollable anger that has destroyed all from the smallest of families to whole nations. Jesse takes one look at Genji and wishes to know what he mourns for. He shakes his head as six men arrive to the bloodbath, completely covering Cinders so Genji won’t touch him. Jesse smiles anxiously and knows he is needed.

Peacekeeper is aimed within steady fingers and a steadier heart. Jesse remains still as his right eye perfectly takes in every man in front of him. Six shots, six bodies. Deadeye watches, Deadeye takes. He takes a deep breath. None can escape, no one ever survives. They are already in their graves, caskets made of cobblestone. More faces added to his memory.

“Step right up.”

Genji halts as each goon falls to the floor. Bullets fly as if they are pushed by the very wind itself or guided by an invisible hand. Cinders screams as his line of protection is defeated in the blink of an eye. Genji’s katana almost falls out of his hand as he watches Jesse slowly step forward. Genji swears there is a flash of red in his right eye. The devil hides in plain sight. Genji quickly sidesteps and stands in front of Cinders. Something does not seem right, and Genji feels as if his own life is in danger. Cinders has no idea that Jesse is the shooter from the look on his face, and Genji is unsure how Jesse even did it in the first place.

“Please,” Cinders begs as he falls to his knees. He practically kisses Genji’s feet. “Don’t kill me. I’ll do anything. I’ll tell you about all my rings, buyers, sellers. Everything.”

Genji decides he’s heard enough, and raises his sword to knock him out with the hilt.

“You!” Cinders attempts to crawl away, and he sees Jesse nearing them. “Save me! I’ll p-pay you.”

Jesse softly touches Genji’s hand and makes him lower the katana. Genji is confused, but he allows the action. Twice Jesse has shocked him and it has left him speechless. Jesse tilts his head to the side as Cinders sobs pitifully and claws at Jesse’s pants chanting: Save me, save me, save me, save me. Jesse grits his teeth and presses Peacekeeper against Cinders’ forehead. Something within him is cold, unfeeling, ruthless. Deadeye consumes, Deadlock poisons and distorts. He stands between the edge where Heaven and Hell are separated.

Genji is too late to stop him.

“Jesus saves.” Jesse pulls the trigger, unflinching as the blood sprays. Some find its way on the barrel of Peacekeeper and rolls off. Drip, drip, drip. “And I am not him.”    

Another gunshot fills the air, and Genji snaps forward, looking at a man on the ground who slowly drops his pistol with shallow breaths, profusely bleeding from the wound in his chest.

Someone survived.

Genji watches as Jesse stumbles backwards. Disbelief is on the cowboy’s face as he falls to his knees, and Peacekeeper lands on the cobblestone in defeat. The world slows to a stop as Genji yells Jesse’s name and sheathes his katana, uncaring of the blood that dirties him as he examines the wound in Jesse’s lower right abdomen. He rips off part of the sleeve of his hoodie and presses firmly to stop the bleeding. Rainwater mixes in with the red on cobblestone, and Jesse wonders if the gray clouds of a habit of following cyborgs.

Jesse’s vision blurs, lips trembling as he hears his father’s voice yelling in his ear. Genji disappears, replaced with the wooden benches of an old church.

He awakens to the sound of a heart monitor and his own resolve weakening. There’s a pulsing ache where he was shot, suggesting Angela did her job without issue. Gabriel is to his right, dozing off with his beanie threatening to fall off his head. He reaches over with a wince and gently fixes it.

“Rise and shine, old man.” Jesse nudges him with shaking fingers.

Gabriel groans and swats his hand away, one eye barely able to keep itself open. He rubs his face and stares at Jesse for a moment. “You used Deadeye, didn’t you?”

Afternoon sunshine pushes its way through the hospital curtains. Tension sizzles on his skin while shadows gather beneath the hospital bed. His right eye begins to feel uncomfortable, and he clears his throat. “What of it?”

“I’ve known you for ten years, mijo,” Gabriel sighs and grabs his hand, softly caressing the scarred skin, comforting, fatherly. “I’ve only seen you use Deadeye few and far between. It’s a curse.”

Jesse shifts—uncomfortable—and pulls his hand out of Gabriel’s hold. He grabs the thin sheet covering his waist and curls his fingers into it tightly. “I wouldn’t say curse.” He thinks about the sparrow resting innocently on the windowsill as he grimaces. Bang, first shot.

“You lose yourself in that damn thing.” Gabriel leans back into his chair and stares up at the ceiling. It reminds Jesse of the times his own father would do that just to say a quick prayer. “From the way Genji described what happened, you were there as an executor, not an agent.”

“But he said to kill ‘em,” Jesse defends himself with gritted teeth. Anger boils in every pore of his body, denial discreetly vaporizes. “I simply followed orders.”

“Jesus saves,” Gabriel looks him in the eye as he recites slowly. “And I am not him.”

Jesse releases a ragged breath as his throat tightens. He’s fifteen again, shaking in his boots as he begs for the leader of Deadlock, Yorick, to save his father from a crime lord. The McCree family had been tight on money, depending on bounty hunting and fighting rings to pay for the bills. Ernesto did not come home one night, and Jesse feared for the worst. Yorick had promised with a sly smile—the kind that saw cities erupt in flames—and said he would only do so if Jesse joined Deadlock. All for giving the gang his notorious Deadeye for their uses. Jesse felt he had given up his own soul the moment he accepted. And it doesn’t feel like he ever got it back. Deadeye never saves, never saves, never—

He groans in realization and drags a hand down his face. You weren’t supposed to kill Cinders, ya idiot.

“Yorick said those words to you when you asked him why he left your father to die,” Gabriel’s voice is barely above a whisper as he places his hand over Jesse’s knuckles. A secret neither want the walls of the hospital to hear. “Deadlock is still a part of you. All you do is ignore it, push it away. You have to accept it in order to move on.”

Says who, he wants to say.

Jesse blinks away the tears and stares at the clock on the far wall. It is a blur of red, numbers distorted. Gabriel allows him to think without interruption, leaving the room with the want for coffee and several painkillers. Jesse bites his lower lip, drawing blood and doing nothing to stop it from slowly dripping down his chin.

“I now understand why there are people who fear you.” Genji walks into the room. He is without his hoodie and wears the standard Overwatch uniform like he did when they first met. He doesn’t mention the blood. “Although, to call you a monster is ill-fitting. Angela has told me of your selflessness and of your ability to be carefree. There is human within you.” There is a small bitterness in his tone. Envy even.

Jesse scoffs and wipes his chin with the back of his hand. “Then what am I, cyborg chief?”

“Broken.” Genji takes the seat Gabriel had occupied. He sits up straight, never hunching, never slouching. His shoulders are not tensed however, and he is not cautious of Jesse in the slightest. “You must continue to rest. I will not leave.” He folds his arms and looks towards the door. There’s honestly no reason for him to even be here.

Jesse’s eyes become heavy as he gazes at Genji’s visor. His mouth twitches into a minuscule smile as he believes Genji’s words. Maybe it’s the drugs in his system. He dreams of fireflies that glow green.

Genji does not break his promise, his immobile figure basked by the sunset when Jesse awakens.

 

 

 

An odd friendship forms as the last of September’s days pass and October greets the world with autumn dragging its fingers through the soil and turning the leaves brown. Life withers before Jesse’s eyes, and this is his favorite season. His serape warms his shoulders as he and Genji walk through the streets of Frankfurt, Germany. They touched down hours ago, the Overwatch helicopter leaving as quickly as it arrived.

Jesse and Genji usually see each other in passing in Gibraltar, small talk filling in the space between them. Usually it’s a short hello or a how are you, nothing concrete but neither complain. Jesse appreciates how Genji doesn’t tiptoe around him, believing him to be some ticking time bomb. Everyone still whispers about his incident in King’s Row and it drives him up the wall. Genji simply brushes off what happened with a shrug. Not much needs to be said between them and the mutual respect slowly builds. The more Jesse sees Genji, however, the more he notices the deep anger and constant brooding.

“Wanna hear a funny story?” Jesse asks when they ultimately stop at an abandoned warehouse which will be the meeting place of another Shimada arms deal. Jesse doesn’t ask why Genji brought him along or why the Shimada clan seems to be on his hit list. An Overwatch thing, maybe. “Abuelita told it to me once, and I loved it ever since.”

“You will tell me anyways, even if I refuse.” Genji shakes his head and surveys the area for a good hiding spot. Maybe he is scowling.

“There’s a story about a husband and wife who could no longer afford to keep their dog,” Jesse talks as if this is the first time he has ever said this aloud. Fondness resides in his bones. “So one day, the wife tells the husband to take the dog a block away and leave it. The husband does so, and he goes back home to see the dog already at the front porch.”

“Stubborn dog.” Genji snorts as he motions for Jesse to follow to an area full of boxes, dumpsters, and other objects to hide behind.  

Jesse tips his hat with a smile. “The next day the wife says, ‘try again, but in another neighborhood.’ So the husband takes the dog to another neighborhood, and when the husband returns, the dog is right there beside his wife.” He takes a seat on a closed dumpster.

Genji leans against the dumpster instead of joining him on top. His shoulders brush Jesse’s pants lightly. “What happened next?” he attempts to sound disinterested.  

“So the wife says, ‘take the dog deep into the country where he’s never been before and leave him there.’ The husband goes and takes the car with the dog in the back seat. He drives through hills, fields, deep, deep south.” Jesse vaguely gestures with his hands. “He drops the dog off in a corn field and leaves him behind.”

“And the dog?” Genji turns his head to look up at Jesse.

Jesse laughs a little too loudly as he slaps his knee. “The husband calls his wife a couple of minutes later and asks if the dog is there. She says yes.” He grins. His favorite part. “The husband says ‘well, can you put him on the phone because I need directions.’”

He does not expect a response from Genji, thinking he will probably tell Jesse to never tell him another story or call him a nuisance. Instead, Genji’s shaking shoulders brush against Jesse’s leg again as his head is bowed. Jesse’s eyes widen when he hears that Genji is laughing. It is quiet at first before it slightly raises in volume but still soft enough that Jesse has to strain his ears. It is airy and genuine, a beautiful noise. Jesse has to pick his jaw off the floor.

“You are right, Agent McCree.” Genji pushes himself off the dumpster and looks at the warehouse. “That was a funny story.”

Jesse’s cheeks grow warm when Genji gives him a thumbs up. It is harmless, friendly. Yet his heart beats a little faster. The wind calms as the sun begins its descent towards the horizon. Jesse clears his throat and looks away.

Later, when evening falls and Genji's sword drives clean into his target, Jesse realizes he is unable to hold Peacekeeper without shaking.

“You did not use Deadeye,” Genji remarks as they leave the warehouse and towards the rendezvous point. He wipes away the blood on his visor with a napkin Jesse gives him. “Does it matter on the number of people?”

Jesse scratches his beard as he thinks about it. He looks at the smoke rising from the end of his cigarillo in hopes it’s able to give him the answer Genji wants. “Not exactly. I can use Deadeye up to six people since I only got six rounds. But I can’t use it all the time.”

“Why is that?” Genji abruptly stops and looks over his shoulder to Jesse.

“I’ll go blind,” Jesse admits after he exhales. His lungs are filled with synthetic tobacco and rosewater. “Reason my father died is because he overused Deadeye for his job. Once he lost it, he wasn’t useful no more.” Deadeye watches, but for how long?

His words do not register until Genji offers his condolences.

“Keep them,” Jesse grunts as he tries not to tap the funeral march with the tip of his boot. His accidental oversharing will haunt him for weeks.

Genji decides to end the conversation there. Jesse silently thanks him.

 

Moments between comfort and need, between hope and faith, between father and son occurs when Halloween makes it way with fake cobwebs, pumpkin heads, and an overenthusiastic Gabriel Reyes. The day is inexplicably light, warm, and calm. The kind where he can breathe without issue. The kind he can have fun and forget about Blackwatch. It doesn’t hurt to smile, and he gets to spend time with Gabriel during a time they both enjoy.

Jesse thinks his own Han Solo costume looks like child’s play concerning Gabriel’s Blade. The signature sunglasses rest on Gabriel’s desk as Jesse sits on the once-tidied bed. It’s been awhile since he made himself at home in Gabriel’s room. He has definitely missed it.

“Made all’a that yourself?” Jesse whistles lowly, impressed, as he reaches over to tug at the black trenchcoat. “Where did you find the time?”

Gabriel grins and pulls his cape out of his grip. Perfection takes days to create, to ruin it takes seconds. “Just as I find the time to fix the bullet holes in your serape. I can make it work.”

“Hope you find the time to hunt vampires too,” Jesse jokes before Gabriel playfully throws a crumpled ball of paper in retaliation. Jesse yelps as Gabriel’s arm swings around his neck and uses his other hand to give him a noogie. “Hey, hey! Watch the hair!”

Their laughter carries out of the room and blankets the hallway with gentle spirits. The moods of other Blackwatch members mirror theirs, treating each other like family despite the recently rising corruption rumors. For now nothing matters from morning to nightfall. And Jesse will be damned if something ruins it.

Reinhardt and Ana greet Jesse with open arms when he makes it on time to the get-together. The Overwatch lounge is empty on Halloween, the festivities usually finds its way at the local bars in Gibraltar. So his makeshift family takes it for themselves. There are rubber bats hanging from the ceiling and skeletons below the fake fireplace. Angela stands proudly in the middle of it all, ready to show off her decoration skills. Her woodland fairy costume is rather adorable, he admits silently.

“Whatever she tells you is a lie,” Torbjorn whispers when Jesse walks up to the table full of snacks. His Napoleon Bonaparte costume reeks of ale. “Gabriel bought all of these decorations and told her where to put them.”

Jesse gives him a lopsided smile before eyeing the chocolate cookies. “And who was responsible for these delights?”

“Me!” Reinhardt booms, his voice probably reaching from the tip of the Rock to the city below. He blushes and murmurs an apology when Ana—looking comical in her mime getup—slaps his arm as she gestures for him to hush. The redness of his cheeks practically matches the color of his Superman costume.

Michael Jackson’s Thriller serves as background noise as they all chat amongst one another. Angela is all waving arms and changing expressions as she describes her encounter with an unruly patient who refused to be treated despite his internal bleeding.

“Can you believe what he said to me?” Angela scrunches up her nose.

“What did he say?” Jack asks, making his presence known to Jesse who had absolutely no idea he was even here. He makes a fitting Oliver Queen, but his hood keeps falling in front of his eyes. Reinhardt shakes his head and pulls it back for him, smiling when Jack shoots him a grateful look.

Angela clears his throat and deepens her voice. “Isn’t that where all the blood is supposed to be?”

Jesse snorts into his glass of fruit punch, nearly dropping it out of his hands before he wipes his chin with a napkin Ana hands him. Overwatch’s medical staff isn’t as appreciated as they should be. Angela has saved his hide many times, and he always makes sure to thank her kindly. His parents didn’t raise an impolite delinquent.  

“Gabriel!”

“Genji!”

Jesse’s head snaps towards the door, nearly giving himself whiplash at the sound of the second name. His Adam’s apple jumps up then drops as he watches Genji enter right behind Gabriel. The breath is stolen from his lungs. Genji is wearing just as much black as Gabriel, but his flowing cape is a velvet red underneath and below the green of his visor lies a glued on small, paper blood drop.

“Genji, what are you exactly supposed to be?” Angela asks the question Jesse is too afraid to.

“Cyborg,” Genji dramatically flaps his cape and places a closed fist above his chest, ”Dracula.”

Silence.

Jesse tilts his head back and guffaws. Everyone joins him one by one, even Genji, who turns away so that his shaking shoulders are covered by Gabriel’s larger frame. The kind of laughter that’s rare yet necessary. The kind that families share—where the growing storm outside is relentless, but at least they have each other.

 

 

 

When November arrives, it bites him in the ass. Canada is by far Jesse’s least favorite country. The cold is almost unnatural. Gabriel is probably laughing from his warm, cozy room in Gibraltar. He nearly whimpers as he wraps the scarf around his face tighter. Complaints freeze once they reach past his lips, decaying into coming snow and fog. He takes one look at Genji and asks with chattering teeth if Angela installed a portable heater within his cybernetic body.

“I am afraid not.” Genji sounds vaguely amused, turning to him with a tilt of his head. He taps the lower part of his visor in mock thought. “Perhaps I shall ask the next time I see her.”

Jesse’s smile is hidden by the scarf. “Fair enough.”

The Shimada clan is not the reason for their visit to Ontario. Talon activity has spiked within North America, leaving destroyed research bases that are under Mei-ling Zhou’s charge. The body count rises steadily each day, and it leaves a bad taste in Jesse’s mouth. Initially, Blackwatch was not put on this mission, leaving it to Genji, Ana, and a small squadron. Jesse just feels like a tag-along.

“Are you two finished flirting?” Ana coughs as she joins them, “We have work to do.”

Genji shakes his head as Jesse playfully blows Ana a kiss.

Jesse is a little put off when Genji doesn’t talk to him for the rest of the time they are together. Disappointment is an understatement.

 

 


December is a relatively quiet month. For those not in Overwatch, of course. Snowfall in Greenland is a sight only described in poems. The crime that plagues its coast is darker than black ink on paper. Genji is quiet as Jesse rubs his hands in front of a burning car, using it as warmth as Overwatch agents surround them to assess the damage. They all give Jesse strange looks—Blackwatch agents in a place like this is unheard of. But as time goes on, Genji without Jesse is just as rare.

“Maybe I should get myself an Overwatch uniform,” Jesse jokes as the fire crackles. His cheeks are cherry red. “I don’t think the blue looks good on me though.”

Genji looks him up and down. “I prefer the all black.” He walks away.

Jesse’s mouth goes dry, and he almost catches the ends of his pants on fire.

He grows sullen towards the final days of the year. It’s a feeling that grinds his bones and gives him a migraine. Fireworks in Gibraltar is a tradition for the new year, but Jesse isn’t in the mood. Champagne bottles are passed along, and drunk singing fills the night air. Jesse usually enjoys drowning in the festivities, allowing the temporary joy to drag him in like quicksand until there is nothing left. Yet this time, he keeps his distance.

Jesse sits on a lone rock on the outskirts of the beach, watching the low tide and counting every time the waters attempt to reach him.

1...2...3...

Jesse uses it as a distraction to not look at Genji, who is currently speaking with Angela beside the large bonfire. They have not spoken since their time in Greenland, and Jesse finds himself annoyed over his fruitless crush. He sees Genji everywhere, even if he tries to avoid him. They often bump into each other with apologies ready on the tip of their tongues as if they always expect it to happen.

The knowing glances and goofy grins from Gabriel don’t help either.

As all of the agents count down from ten to one as the clock almost strikes twelve, Jesse brings his knees to his chest and closes his eyes. He wonders why it feels like his whole world is collapsing.

“Is everything alright?” Genji’s concern carries in the first day of January. He has to speak up in order to not be drowned out by the thundering fireworks.

Jesse doesn’t know whether he should laugh or cry. “I think I’m an idiot.” He hops off the rock and wipes his hands on his pants.

Genji looks over his shoulder briefly before looking back at Jesse. “You are not an idiot.” A slow wave of music accompanies his statement in a tango. “You are just lost.”

“Like you?” Jesse inclines his head with a small smile. He takes the risk.

“Like me.”

Chapter Text

“So, your father finally taught you Deadeye?” Jesse’s grandmother exhales and watches the cigarette smoke disperse into the cool air. The morning sun barely appears above the horizon. The red shawl around her shoulders is enough to keep her warm. “Do you understand what this means?”

Jesse shakes his head, rubbing the callouses on his hand he received after handling a revolver the whole day. His right eye aches, and he tries not to claw at his eyelid.

“It means you’re a god among men,” she puts out the cigarette and softly touches her eyepatch. “But even gods have a weakness, chiquito. So be careful how you make the world stop, because it will fight back with a vengeance.”

“Jesse.”

Jesse watches his grandmother disappear into stardust and longing with a mere utterance of his name. Gabriel’s voice brings him back to the present, and his grip on Peacemaker tightens. “Didn’t mean to lose myself.” He looks away from the training robots to see Gabriel beside him with his arms crossed.

His beanie is missing.

“Keep focus. You want to own this? So put in the work.” Gabriel motions towards the moving training bots. He snatches the cowboy hat off of Jesse’s head and puts it on his own. “Shoot ‘em up, cowboy.”

Jesse never tells him what happens when he overuses Deadeye.

 

[Deadeye takes until there is nothing left.]


Moonlight trickles over rocks and blue water before making its way to the shore. It ultimately stops at the soles of Jesse McCree’s running shoes and numbs his shadow. February winds are freezing by the water of Gibraltar, merciless yet welcomed on his sweaty face. He opted out of running during the early morning once he realized several other Blackwatch agents stole his idea. Besides, the beach looks prettier beneath the stars.

Up ahead, Genji sits silently upon a rock overlooking a small pier. His mood lately has been worse than rolling thunder—unpredictable, deadly. Often the cyborg even refused to look at Jesse, mumbling about cynicism and far too bright smiles. There are moments when he blanks out completely, staring at an empty space as if someone is there. Jesse is unsure how to deal with it, so he just leaves him alone. Or at least tries to since wherever he goes, Genji pops up too.

Jesse isn’t in a good place either. Running takes off the stress and keeps him anchored, but he doesn’t know for how long. He collapses to his knees and digs his hands into the sand as he evens his breathing. Wet strands of hair stick to his face, and he refrains from rubbing his right eye. He has not used Deadeye since King’s Row and yet its effects still take toll on his body.

“I understand you are almost thirty but to have the stamina of an old man is disappointing.” Genji appears in front of him and crouches. He pats Jesse’s head playfully, mockingly. “You have only been running for less than an hour.”

“Not all of us can be cyborgs, Genji.” Jesse slaps his hand away and falls back so that he rests on his behind. He wipes the sand off his hands to the best of his abilities and is thankful for the lanterns that are not too far off. “What are you doin’ here, anyway?”

Genji doesn’t answer, preferring to stand back up and look towards the water. He has been doing that lately: the silence, the refusal to speak about himself. His last name is still a mystery, and his origins are nonexistent. He curls into himself as a last means of defense. Jesse believes that now is no different.

“Hanzo Shimada has abandoned the Empire.” Genji spits the statement out as if it is poison, surprising them both. It is something he shouldn’t be saying, but it comes out anyway, “He has been branded a traitor after he disappeared from Japan.”

Jesse’s eyebrows furrow. “Who’s Hanzo?”

“The now former heir to the Shimada clan. He killed his own brother for the mantle, and now he no longer wants it.” Genji laughs bitterly. Jesse doesn’t like it at all; it is a distortion of the beautiful sound back in October. “It seems he made a run for it before everything truly fell apart.”

“So why are you here? Are you goin’ to chase him down?” Jesse purses his lips and vaguely gestures. Do you want me to come with?

Genji turns his back to him and clenches his fist. “I wished to see you.” A confession squeezes through a mechanical filter and turns into a constellation above.

“Why?”

“I do not know,” Genji admits softly and steps forward to allow the cool waves to overlap his feet.

The words echo through Jesse’s skull as he takes in every detail of Genji: the clenched fists, the bowed head, the turmoil that claws at every part of him. It reminds Jesse of himself, the time he found himself trapped within Deadlock’s grip. Birds of a feather flock together. The two eventually move closer to the lanterns, taking a seat upon the pavement that separates several houses from the sand. They sit close together, warmth seeping from Jesse’s arm and into Genji’s cybernetic skin. Jesse has always been meaning to ask how Genji exactly works.

Genji doesn’t speak for a long time, and when he does, he doesn’t look away from the sky, “Tell me about yourself.” It sounds more like a question than a statement.

Jesse shrugs one shoulder and taps on his knees. He never knows what to say. Winston does a better job. “I enjoy romantic walks to the bank.”

“That is not what I meant.” Genji snorts and nudges him with his elbow. His posture relaxes slightly, his torso even leaning towards Jesse. He no longer looks at the sky.

Jesse rubs the back of his neck as his hobbies, likes, and dislikes all spill from his lips like an overflowing tea cup. He admits he likes animals, especially birds, and he’s not all that great around children. He hates the snow, especially when it turns to ice because he slips and falls all the time in his cowboy boots. Autumn is his favorite season because back in New Mexico the aspens’ quaking leaves turn a vibrant shade of gold that shine like sunlight. He used to play baseball with bottle caps in his backyard because it passed the time. He can’t pinpoint when their fingers begin to touch intimately; they almost interlock but not just yet.

Genji either barely notices or chooses to ignore it.

“What about you, cyborg chief?” Jesse tilts his head. His eyes are twinkling from the flash of green from Genji’s visor. “You like mint chocolate ice cream? Cause if you do, I’m afraid this friendship is over.”

Genji barks out a laugh, pushing away Jesse as he grips his sides. Jesse cannot help but join him, enjoying the way they can forget about everything that lies past the beach: Overwatch, Blackwatch, Deadlock, everything. Jesse runs his hands through his unruly hair as they compose themselves, breathing ragged as they settle their heartbeats. Genji sighs softly and places his hand on Jesse’s knee.

“I appreciate your efforts, McCree.” No agent. Informal. Relaxed.

Jesse blushes and looks away. The ocean glitters as much as the stars do. He tries not to smile like a lovesick idiot. “I ain’t do nothin’.”

The smell of seawater drowns them slowly. Before they realize it, midnight passes as they gaze up together to look at the full moon. Jesse is unable to name the constellations in the sky but it never matters. Just to make Genji laugh, he gives bundles of stars ridiculous names, pointing to one and calling it ‘the horse tail.’ Each time Genji would snigger, hastily correcting him or even attempting to come up with something funnier. It is a natural process of friendship, and it is welcomed. The sand gently shifts over their shoes as the wind blows. Genji stands and sticks his arm down towards Jesse.

“Do you require assistance?” he quips.

Jesse grins goofily and grabs Genji’s hand to pull himself up. “You never answered my question.”

“I hate mint chocolate.” The perfect answer.

Genji doesn’t let go once Jesse stands; his hand is oddly warm and perfect. It dawns on Jesse that he has nothing to say as his fingers press against Genji’s. Instead he wonders how different his life would be if Genji had left him in the rain.

 

 

 

Their first date is in the middle of March and during a shootout. The best way to spend the anniversary of their first meeting. Any person would have dumped Jesse by now, but Genji seems to be enjoying himself. Actually, it is not a date. Jesse just kind of wishes it is.

We fit, you and I, Jesse sighs wistfully.

A bullet almost nicks his shoulder, and he decides they will need Deadeye. “Genji, I got the six to the left!” he hollers as he dives behind metal containers. Warehouses seems to be a favorite for the Shimada’s deal makers, and it annoys Jesse to no end. No one ever chooses bars or school yards anymore.

“Negative,” Genji hisses as he rolls next to him. “Gabriel says you are still not in complete control of it. What if you accidentally become blind or it consumes you again?”

Several gunshots fire at their cover.

“Do you trust me, sweetheart?” Jesse gets up to quickly shoot three rounds before ducking back down.

“O-of course.” Genji is taken aback by the endearing term, but he nods. “I have no reason not to.”

Jesse smiles and taps Genji’s visor with his knuckles. “Then get those buffoons on the right while I cover your left.”

Genji does as he is told without hesitation, putting his faith completely in Jesse. He misses the look of apprehension on Jesse’s face. The cowboy moves silently along the metal containers until he is to the side of the six men shooting at Genji. Jesse takes a deep breath and leaves his hiding spot.

His movement becomes slow, and his grip on Peacemaker is steady, still. Steady fingers, steadier heart. The world stops for no man, but it will for Deadeye. His father’s rosary that he hides underneath his shirt burns against his skin. His right eye lines up all the men in front of him in a perfect shot. It’s high noon. Jesse presses the trigger, and they fall just as the smoke rises at the end of the barrel. A darkness laps at his heels, but he ignores it. He is quick to reload Peacemaker as he makes his way to Genji who finishes dispatching the last man standing.

“We make a good team, cyborg chief.” Jesse winks when Genji turns around.

“I know,” Genji sheathes his katana and opens the latches of his visor so that Jesse can see the proud look in his eyes. “We are intended to be together, McCree. It is why I requested your assistance in many of my missions.”

Jesse chokes on his spit when he hears the former. He knows exactly what Genji meant by the first sentence, but his heart still skipped a beat. His cheeks grow warm, and he makes sure his hat hides his face as Genji closes his visor.

“You look under the weather, Jesse,” Genji wittily remarks as he walks past him. This is the first time he says his first name. “Perhaps you need medicine.”

“Shut your mouth.” Jesse pulls at his collar to cool off the heat.

Genji laughs and waves nonchalantly over his shoulder. “Why do you call me that anyway? Cyborg chief?”

“What?” Jesse catches up with an annoyed huff. “You prefer sweetheart?” he smiles when Genji’s step falters.

“Perhaps it is you, cowboy, who should shut their mouth.”

The guffaw that escapes Jesse is loud and clear in the silent night. Genji is too busy trying to suppress his own to tell him to be quiet lest he alert every criminal within the vicinity.

“Bold,” Jesse purrs, accent thicker as his voice deepens, “I like it.” He adds a wink for dramatic effect.

Genji threatens to hit him with the hilt of Ryu-Ichimonji, and Jesse wisely backs off. And it is worth it as they walk side by side, fingers brushing against one another in mutual admiration and something a little more.

 

 

 

Jesse removes his hat to take in the weather of the first Saturday of April. A moment of peace is a luxury so soon in the year.

“You haven’t asked me why I specifically go after the Shimada clan.” Genji studies a butterfly perched on his finger as he lounges in the grass on the garden rooftop. His head rests against Jesse’s thigh, having managed to find a position where the metal does not dig into Jesse’s side. Los Angeles’s sun makes him content.

“I figured it was none of my business,” Jesse answers sheepishly. His back rests against a tall tree, and his right hand lies in the middle of Genji’s chest. He is not sure if he feels Genji’s heartbeat or mistakes it for his own that pounds.

Genji sits up, gently removing Jesse’s hand from his chest. The butterfly flies away. “They were once a family I called my own.”

“Genji Shimada,” Jesse blurts dumbly. “Wouldya look at that? I finally got a last name.” He grins as Genji probably looks at him with an exasperated expression behind his visor.

“May I continue?” he mumbles.

“Apologies.”

“I had been severely wounded, and Angela saved my life. In exchange, I vowed to dismantle my family’s empire.” Genji’s words are brittle and cold. He speaks with the numbness of a lost man. “Most of me is no longer human, and I deal with that every day.”

“And the parts that are human?” Jesse is cautious; he doesn’t want to push any buttons.

Genji grows quiet as his shoulders hunch with an invisible weight. He slowly turns so that he faces Jesse as one of his legs is folded underneath the other. His hands rise to his visor and lifts the latches that hold it in place. Jesse quickly reaches out to place his hand over one of Genji’s own, a look on his face that says: You don’t have to do this. Genji nods as Jesse pulls away, and a small hiss enters Jesse’s ears. Neither breathe, or forget to, as their eyes meet. Jesse recognizes the odd shine within Genji’s eyes—cybernetic. Just like Ana’s. Genji continues to say nothing as the visor is completely removed, revealing a heavily scarred face with cheeks and a lower jaw outlined by a dark gray plate that reaches the back of his head. Black synthetic hair rests limply, and his eyebrows are barely noticeable. It only takes half a second to realize Genji’s skin is an open book where the story of his life is literally carved into it.

Jesse reaches over and places two fingers on Genji’s cheek.

“Are you afraid?” Genji is breathless, fear weaving through each of his syllables. It’s almost as if he is asking the question to himself.

How can I be afraid of something so beautiful, Jesse muses silently.

“No,” Jesse says firmly as his hand drops back down to his side. “Never will be either.”

Genji sighs in relief and reattaches his visor. He has not taken it off for a while, usually only doing it while in the middle of his visits with Angela, but he rarely sees her anymore as he is too busy. “You have no idea how much that makes me happy.”

Chatter from the streets below fill their ears. A hum of hovercars and chirping birds echo through the air. If Jesse looks over the edge he will probably see mothers pushing strollers two stories below, chatting with their spouses or their friends. Maybe there are college students who are desperately making their way to the local library as they attempt to study the day before their final exams. There is more life in the streets below but as Jesse sits beside Genji, he has never felt more alive. He says nothing when Genji scoots over, softly grabbing his arm as he traces the brown skin with subtle scars. Jesse thinks that maybe he is drawing constellations on his arm, trying to remember the stars they saw back in Gibraltar.

“Do you have a heartbeat?” the questions tumbles out of Jesse’s mouth before he can stop it. He grits his teeth and inwardly scolds himself for his insensitivity.

“You can check,” Genji murmurs and reaches over to grab Jesse by the back of his head.

Jesse feels all the blood drain from his face when he finds himself with his ear pressed against Genji’s chest.

Ba-bump. Ba-bump. Ba-bump.

“Can you hear it?” Genji’s voice is soft enough to be carried by the wind.

“Y-Yeah.” Jesse licks his chapped lips as he closes his eyes. “I can hear it.”

The flowers at their feet sway in a dance. Shy smiles are shared in secret. Innocence gathers between them. The scent of spring clings to their clothes and wraps around Jesse’s hat. The day passes with the guide of Genji’s heartbeat.

 

Between the months and the seconds, Jesse believes that time is moving far too quickly for his liking. May and June disappear as if they are a figment of his imagination. He looks at his wall and the monitor tells him today is the first day of July. There’s news of the giant Omnic attacking Korea once more. Doomfist has been apprehended by Winston and Gabriel. He doesn’t know how many times he’s emptied Peacekeeper just to count the bullets and then put them back in. Probably too many.

He bites his lower lip enough to feel it sting.

Deadeye has done nothing but remind him the sand in his hourglass is running out. An entity with its gun pressed close enough for him to see the dried blood and scratches at the end of the barrel. Each pulse of his right eye is a second closer to the big bang. He stares at the wall with worn exasperation and hopes for the end to come soon. Generation after generation. Gabriel is right. It is a curse. The memory of his grandmother protests in the back of his mind, but he gathers her ashes and blows them away.

He doesn’t know how long he’ll be able to hide the blood that leaks. Gabriel nearly saw the bundles of bloodied napkins in his pockets. Ana suspects something, but she keeps her distance in hopes he will come to her. A cybernetic eye is a possibility. But it doesn’t seem right. It feels like a sin to distort something so natural with something so artificial.

Am I useful without Deadeye? Jesse attempts the million dollar question, leaning back into his chair. The fear of being tossed away like his father had been only makes his stomach churn and the hairs on his arms stand.

“Athena, mind turning on the radio?” he mumbles to thin air. Music will make the bad thoughts go away. Well, actually, they never do, but he doesn’t care.

She obliges, and he sits there in silence.

Some hearts are ghosts settling down in dark waters

Just as silt grows heavy and drowns with the stones

“Athena, I don’t recall asking for music that makes me crave a glass of whiskey,” Jesse drawls as he pushes back to make his chair lean on two legs.

“Correct, I only turned on the radio as you asked.”

Jesse foregoes all maturity and pouts.

 

 

 

“You’re both absolutely hopeless.” Gabriel flicks a pea at Jesse’s face. He’s without his beanie today, trying to avoid a heat stroke from the July sun. The scars on his face are more defined during the summer.

They’re sitting at a table within the cafeteria in Gibraltar. It’s in the corner, closest to the door and farthest from the cautious Overwatch agents. Lena happily waves to them both as she passes by, the chronal accelerator whirring and glowing against her chest. She counts as an odd one.

“I’m not exactly sure what the meaning of this assault is.” Jesse scowls as the pea falls into his tray after hitting him square on the nose. He refrains from grabbing his spoon and flinging mashed potatoes at his commanding officer. One of them has to be an adult.

“Everyone and their tia can see what’s going on between you and Genji,” Gabriel remarks before he eats a piece of his bland, cafeteria chicken. He chews briefly and roughly swallows. “It feels like I’m watching one of those teen movies.”

The look of betrayal and offense on Jesse’s face isn’t unexpected. “What did I say about butting into my love life?”

“You’ve never had a love life before this,” Gabriel deadpans. His response is quick, merciless, a metaphorical jab to the jugular that leaves Jesse speechless and perhaps, humbled.

Jesse shoves his mashed potatoes into his mouth and refuses to speak another word. Gabriel decides not to mention the way Jesse perks up the moment Genji walks in through the double doors. Nor the part where he deflates when Genji doesn’t acknowledge him or even look in his direction.

 

 

 

August is nothing but an orange blur. Jesse loses track of the days, forgets to read the numbers on the clock and on the calendar. Or maybe he chooses not to remember how to. But he knows that the year is 2068, and he is twenty eight years old. And he realizes he’s so deeply in love it hurts.

Jesse and Genji are all polite smiles—more obvious on Jesse’s end—and awkward bowing of the heads as if they have only just met for the first time. It doesn’t feel right because their footsteps are supposed to make music together, fill in one another perfectly. They’re supposed to crash into each other with apologies already on the tip of their tongues. They’re supposed to lace their fingers together and press their foreheads with attractive lighting shining down and Bonnie Tyler serving as mood music.

Genji drowns himself in inescapable duty.

Jesse finally removes the Deadlock tattoo on the back of his right shoulder.

During the last week of the month, Ana seeks him out and takes him to Numbani. No mission, no assignment. It’s a little out of the blue, but he accepts. She chats about everything and nothing on the way there. Fareeha is mentioned few and far between; her accomplishments with the Egyptian army do not go unnoticed. However there is familial longing and regret within her tone and the twitch of her feelings. He briefly touches her knee before they land, and she gives him a grateful look.

A storm is coming, Jesse thinks as he breathes in Numbani’s air, a harsh downpour, neverending. The kind of rain that goes on for days and weeks. It smothers the city in gray, a thick fog of gloom. Humid, yet not scorching. Early morning weariness accompanying those off to work. Omnics walk the street without umbrellas, unhindered. Strokes of raindrops on a silver canvas, mechanical strides accompanying the gentle pitter patter on wet asphalt. Jesse wonders if this storm will reach Gibraltar.

Ana and Jesse take refuge in a small cafe. She doesn’t say anything as she sits there, allowing Jesse to order first with a wave of her hand. Within a couple of minutes, a coffee mug is cradled in his hands. Two sugars, no milk. Thunder startles the other patrons—small, embarrassed laughter drowning out the quiet radio. Jesse takes a sip and almost spits it out.

His face is distorted in disgust as he begrudgingly swallows.

“You and Gabriel are so alike,” Ana shakes her head as she leans back into her seat, “it is almost frightening.” She then murmurs in French to a waiter, requesting for a cup of chamomile tea and a side of honey.

“I don’t understand,” he says as he subtly pushes the mug away. The aroma almost makes him sick to his stomach.

“He orders the same thing.” She speaks as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “He hates it too but it keeps him on his toes.”

Jesse refrains from going to the bathroom to rinse out his mouth.  “That’s just self torture.”

Ana laughs into her hand before tucking her graying hair behind her ears. They fall silent as Ana’s tea arrives. Jesse playfully swipes some of her honey with a finger before putting it in his mouth, and she huffs at him with disgust despite the fond look in her eyes. Ana sometimes fills in the silence with complaints about Jack or storytelling of Reinhardt’s shenanigans. Jesse humors her with nods of his head and soft grunts to remind her he’s paying attention. They see a man in a business suit walk in, the pungent scent of cologne and luxury drafting from him. Ana and Jesse share a look as he haughtily orders a coffee. Ana translates: “And hurry up with it. I have a business meeting soon.” Jesse makes a face at the man’s back, and they both snigger.

“I want to be honest with you, Jesse,” Ana slowly stirs the honey into her tea, picturing her thoughts mix in with the amber liquid. She looks older than she should be. “Be careful with Genji.” She takes a sip, refraining from gulping it down in one go to negate her emotional pain with scalding liquid burning her throat.

“What brought this on?” Jesse peers at the abandoned mug. The continuous drone of clinking porcelain cups and whipped cream murmuring into cappuccinos settle on his skin.

Ana is not in the mood for any clarifications. “I see an uneasy path for the both of you, grueling, painful. You must not forget who he is.”

“Don’t tell me you’re butting into my love life too,” Jesse scoffs as he rolls his eyes. He sinks into his seat, mindful of his long legs brushing against Ana’s. “Although, I thought you liked Genji.”

“I do,” her shoulders sag, “but I know inner torment when I see it.”

She says no more, and Jesse grabs his coffee.


“What makes you think I can do anything?” Ana tsks as she grabs Jesse by the chin to examine his bloodied lip and black eye. He recoils and spits on her trench coat. “I can teach him manners, but that is only face value.” She grabs a napkin, surprising Jesse when she cleans his lips and not her clothing.

“I was hoping you could teach him how to open his mouth since he hasn’t said a word.” Gabriel shakes his head from where he’s leaning against the wall. The circles around his eyes are as dark as the interrogation room. “I’ve been trying to convince him that Blackwatch is far better than maximum security at Cape Dyer.” His heart wrenches at the sight before him.

“The wounds any of your subordinates’ doing?” Ana gnaws her bottom lip, focused, as she continues to clean the blood on Jesse’s face.

Gabriel shakes his head, offended that she even asked. Not a single soul entered the room except for him and Ana. “God no, I wouldn’t let anyone hit a kid, Amari. He was punched by another Deadlock member who left him for dead.” He takes note of how rigid Jesse becomes. “I’m not sure if he’s loyal or if he’s scared.”

“Scared.” Ana moves away and throws the napkin into the trash. She sighs softly and stares at the handcuffed seventeen year old. “He is scared.”

Jesse looks at them both before bowing his head.       

 

 

 

September becomes a month Jesse hates. It barrels through with a whirlwind of emotions when he finds Genji on the rooftop of Blackwatch’s dormitory in Switzerland. His knees are to his chest with his arms are wrapped around them. The glow of his green visor is dim, hollow. It is about as gloomy as the metaphorical raincloud that gathers above Genji’s head.

Jesse tilts his head and pictures that small sparrow.

“Everything all right, Genji?” he walks up to him with languid steps. There is a towel around his shoulders and the back of his tank top is damp. He hopes it does not rain.

“Am I a killing machine?” Genji is a fleeting glimpse of hard shadows and fluid grace. “Do you feel remorse when you take a man’s life so easily?”

Jesse grimaces as he takes a seat on the ledge beside Genji. Ana’s words repeat in his mind. His spurs jingle as his heels press against the side of the building. “Deadeye makes me remember all my victims. I see their faces every night.”

“Even tonight?” Genji’s anxieties wrap around him like snakes. It bypasses him that Jesse doesn’t answer either of his questions.

“Every night.” He pulls out a cigarillo but never lights it.

Genji groans softly and lets go of his knees so he can grab Jesse’s hand, uncaring as the cigarillo falls to the ground below. He is trembling as their fingers interlock. “What happens after I finish killing my family?” he grips Jesse’s hand tighter. “Who am I once they are gone?” Dry croaks, quick blinks, and panic seeps in.

“You’re Genji Shimada.” Jesse refrains from placing his lips on the cold metal that separates Genji from the rest of the world. “That’s who you are.”

The visor is gone after Jesse finishes speaking; it is thrown across the rooftop, slamming against the door that leads to the agents sleeping below. Jesse can barely contain the flinch. Genji’s gaze uncertainly flickers on his defined jaw, the corners of his lips, and the contours of his brown skin. His eyes look as if he can read every emotion, every memory, every loss. Jesse is taken apart piece by piece.

Jesse holds his breath and wonders if Genji wishes to kiss him.

“Perhaps”—Genji looks down at their joined hands—”it is best I leave Overwatch once my duty is done.”

All the color drains from Jesse’s face. He breathes in, and New Mexico is all around him. The sparrow on the windowsill falls dead at his feet. It is buried in a shoe box beside his mother.

“Do as you wish.” Jesse mourns for the cigarillo not in his mouth. “Soul searching?”

Genji purses his lips. “Something like that.”

“Something like that,” Jesse repeats with a low laugh.

Thick pulse and light headache makes him feel weak. Jesse’s hand grows sweaty, and he is this close to pulling away. As if believing Jesse will disappear, Genji decides to hold on tighter, gathering up the bones threatening to crumble and the withering tendons to place prayers on his brown knuckles.

“Do not forget me, Jesse McCree.” Genji lays his heart in Jesse’s lap without mistake. A decision that took months. “When the time comes, do not forget me.”

Jesse’s shoulders sag. “I don’t think forgettin’ you is even possible.” It’s cheesy, cliché, cringey. But he doesn’t know what else to say.

Nothing more is said between them—nothing really needs to be. Words are too clumsy. All unspoken confessions are left to fate. It grows colder as the hours pass, but they do not move from their spot. Jesse feels like his world is collapsing, but Genji settles everything down, holding the pieces together. But for how long?

The first day of September is the harshest, but the second is promising. At least, Jesse hopes so.

The sun rises from its sleep in the most beautiful and brightest of ways. Soft kisses of dawn spread across Jesse’s shivering arms and Genji’s pale face. Genji and Jesse are not at the center of its light, but they are close enough. And as they make their way to leave the rooftop, Jesse hands Genji his visor without a sound. Genji grabs it and stares at it for a moment, his fingers curling around the metal. A gust of wind causes strands of Jesse’s hair to fall into his face.

“Thank you,” Genji whispers.

Jesse means to say: “Guess cyborgs do have manners.”

What he does say, “Can I kiss you?”

Genji chokes and takes a step back. Jesse immediately reads it as a rejection, and he already begins to profusely apologize, vaguely gesturing as he tells him to forget the question ever left his mouth. Jesse has no idea he is even babbling until Genji drops his visor to grab him by the back of his neck and press their lips together. It is a little surreal, a little rushed. Genji kisses the long thought lost soul out of him, lips moving with untapped passion as Jesse can barely keep up.

Jesse gasps for breath when they pull away. Genji tiptoes so that their foreheads can touch. His scars are jagged, uneven against Jesse’s skin. Genji’s hand is warm and heavy where it rests on Jesse’s hip, molding into his pants and leaving an imprint. His other hand is on the back of Jesse’s neck; hope and light builds between Jesse’s skin and the artificial creases on Genji’s palm. Comfort and need wheedle their way in as Jesse desperately tries not to kiss him again.

“Do not define this,” Genji warns him as his thumb softly caresses Jesse’s neck. Yet the warning sounds like it’s for himself. “This might not last forever.” Words that should not be said after a first kiss, but he speaks them anyway.

Jesse bows his head and smiles bitterly. “Forever might not be enough anyway.” He presses both their hands against his chest, and breathes in deeply, as if he can fill the gap between them. “I like postcards by the way. Kiss ‘em with green lipstick so I know it’s you.”

Genji rolls his eyes before he laughs, freeing his hands from Jesse’s grip. The sun becomes unbearable as they stand there, but their heavy hearts are far worse. Jesse finds himself stuck between goodbye and don’t go, unsure of what their next move should be. He pictures the two of them in bed, several blankets piling on their bodies as they make constellations on the ceiling of his bedroom with their fingertips. They giggle over stupid things and ponder about their tomorrows. Jesse will lay his head on Genji’s chest, allowing the heartbeat to wash away his regrets and sorrows. Their lips touch after confessions and during needed silences. With Genji, kissing feels like healing.

Instead the two part ways with longing gazes and murmured farewells.

 

 

 

Jesse carries in October with three shots from Peacekeeper. Blood leaks from his right eye and a gunshot wound on his thigh. Once thought dead rumors of corruption dig into his skin and wrap around his neck like a noose. Genji visits him in the Med Bay, refusing to let go of his hand as they’re both submerged by antiseptic. Jesse lays the month to rest with a bouquet of daisies and moves on without a glance back.

 

 

 

November withers the world with the last of the decaying leaves and oncoming snowfall. They almost kiss in Italy in front of a church. Jesse finds himself withering along with it all.

 

 

 

“Rise and shine, cowboy!” Lena yanks the blanket off his sweaty body.

December proves to be a cruel mistress. There is a bundle of dead daisies and bloody napkins in his garbage can.

“Lena.” Jesse grits his teeth and covers his face with his pillow. “There is no rising and shining before seven in the morning.”

She clicks her tongue and stares at the digital clock. Noon. “You’re gonna miss the big celebration for Winston’s graduation!” she pauses with a sly smile. “Genji will be there.”

Jesse throws the pillow at her, grumbling and sucking his teeth about annoying British women and energetic manipulators. Lena laughs giddily and pulls him off the bed with both hands. She gives him time to change and begin his morning rituals, standing outside in front of his door to make sure he actually leaves it. She hums to herself as she hears him fumbling around.

“Ready?” she beams when he steps out with a disgruntled expression.

“You ain’t give me much choice.” He shakes his head and motions for her to lead the way. He’s a tall mass of lazy limbs and droopy eyelids. “Why we celebrating so early anyway? Makes more sense to do it around dinner time.”

Lena runs a hand through her short hair as she licks her lips. “Genji and the Commander got a mission later, somewhere in Taiwan, even though it’s so close to Christmas. I hope they make it back in time,” she jabbers, waving her arms as she walks and talks. It’s hard for Jesse to keep up. “Winston wants to do a group photo! To put something on his computer beside the Halloween stuff, ya know?”

Genji didn’t go to that one, Jesse laments, remembering Gabriel’s renowned Headless Horseman costume and the large fright he gave to Reinhardt. He thought his Van Helsing would have impressed the cyborg. Maybe won him a kiss or two.

“You paying attention over there, mate?” Lena looks over his shoulder when he doesn’t answer.

“Of course,” he affirms with a small smile.

He tunes out her rambling periodically, giving her grunts and nods when she wants them.

Jesse doesn’t realize he’s holding his breath until they enter Winston’s lab. Ana turns to him with an arched eyebrow as she takes in his tensed form. Genji is leaning against the wall beside the fire extinguisher, chatting with a distracted Jack.

“Everything alright?” Ana wears her standard blue uniform with her sniper rifle hanging from her shoulder. “You’re about as rigid as Gabriel.” She points with her thumb towards the corner where he sits with a brooding expression.

“What’s up with him?” Jesse narrows his eyes and takes in his hunched form. “He was fine just last night.”

Ana shrugs. “I’m assuming it’s another argument with the higher ups.”

Her assumption gives him a bad feeling, a heat underneath his skin that boils, threatening to burn him right up. Angela turns from where she’s pinning the ‘congratulations’ banner on the wall, and she gives him a small wave. She momentarily makes the fear dissipate, but he notices there’s shadows beneath her eyes. Jesse wonders if there’s a storm he hasn’t been aware of yet, one that reached from Numbani. Torbjorn has his usual grumpy expression, but the creases on his face seem sullen. This is by far the most miserable party Jesse has ever been to.

“Woo hoo! Nice certificate, Winston!” Lena cheers as Winston walks down the stairs with his Overwatch uniform. Nothing is capable of dampening her mood. She enthusiastically claps and hollers as the others join her—or attempt to—in her merriment.

Jesse glances at Gabriel in the corner of his eye and takes a mental note at the strained smile on his face. The same kind of smile his own father used whenever Jesse asked if he was okay.

Winston puffs his chest proudly as he holds up the paper. “Yes, well, it is quite lovely.” Despite his achievement, he still speaks like a scientist.

“Glad to have you as one of us, Agent Winston.” Jesse clasps him on the shoulder as he walks up to him. “Can’t wait to have you out in the field. Your tangle with Doomfist already has you in good graces with the UN.” He ignores the small snort from Gabriel. It sounds doubtful, unamused.

Winston bows his head shyly, thankfully not hearing Gabriel’s reaction, and utters his gratitude.

“So are we taking this photo or what?” Reinhardt lifts Ana’s camera and the tripod as a signal to tell everyone to get together. He sets it down and starts the timer once they all get in position. “Perfect, I want to see smiles!”

Jesse laughs softly as he takes his place to Ana’s left. His amusement is cleanly wiped away when Genji stands next to him, folding his arms and waiting silently. Jesse refrains from taking a step closer. He peeks over at Gabriel and finds it strange that he turns his back towards the camera.

“Alright everyone!” Lena gushes as Reinhardt quickly makes his way to behind Genji so he can place his arms on Winston’s and Jesse’s shoulders. “Say cheese!”

“Cheese!”

Click!

It isn't as happy as it should be.

Jesse finds himself on a flight to Japan the day before Christmas. His serape is replaced with a heavy jacket and thick scarf when he walks out of the plane. He’s suspicious over the lack of reason for his deployment, but a call in is a call in. Tokyo feels as cold as Ontario, but it lacks the heavy amounts of snow. Jesse is thankful for that. His cowboy hat gets him weird stares, but he simply smiles in return, even nodding at a little boy who points at him excitedly.

A hoverbus takes him to the town of Hanamura. He feels like he should know why the name seems familiar, but it completely slips his mind. He dozes off during the trip, head resting against the fogged glass as he dreams of tomorrows. His childhood home is fixed, the grass finally trimmed. His grandmother’s rocking chair is restored, and he will move his mother’s casket to a proper burial ground. Maybe he’ll retire there, keeping low as the world moves on without him. A string of hope prays that one day he’ll wake up a middle aged man and Genji will affectionately poke his soft stomach, breathe incoherent good mornings into his ear, and hog all the blankets.

Jesse wonders if he’s still dreaming when he gets off the hoverbus to see Genji waiting for him. A bright orange scarf is around his neck, flapping wildly in the chilly breeze. There are remnants of snow behind him on the ground. Everything is oddly still; winter traps it all in time. It almost makes Jesse want to stay here.

“Welcome to Hanamura, Jesse,” Genji greets with a bow of his head. Intended politeness lacking abrupt judgement. How far the two have come.

“Not that I’m not happy to see you,” Jesse swallows as he steps forward, “but I’m confused, partner.”

He takes one look around and each puzzle piece suddenly falls into place. Genji’s home .

Genji sighs and turns his back to him. “I wished to show you Hanamura one time.”

Before the eventual goodbyes, Jesse adds silently.

“Is it safe for you to even be out here in the open?” he asks vigilantly, Peacekeeper burning in its holster. Everything is far too silent. He worries over Genji far more than himself. “No snipers I should be worried about?”

“The Shimada compound is empty,” Genji inclines his head towards the ancestral home that looms over the town; a once grand force now nothing but a fragment of its former glory. His tone is apathetic. “Many of my family members have fled the country or now reside within our cemetery.” He digs his foot into the small mound of snow. “Yet their underground network is still going on strong.”

His frail movements set alarms off in Jesse’s mind. Genji’s rigid frame reminds Jesse of the mourners that attended his mother’s funeral. He’s practically crumbling where he stands, and Jesse is doubtful if he will be able to catch Genji if and when he falls.

So he makes sure that Genji doesn’t fall at all.

Genji becomes still as Jesse moves forward to wraps his arms around Genji’s waist. Jesse softly presses onto Genji’s back and rests his cheek on the back of his head. The metal bites at his warm skin, but he ignores it. Jesse builds himself as the wall that separates Genji from his shadow, his worries, his conflicts. Jesse wants nothing more than to properly love him.

“Tell me how you really feel,” Jesse stresses as Genji relaxes in his hold. The gentleness of his baritone weaves around them in a comforting embrace. “Don’t push me out, darlin’.”

Somehow Genji looks so small, so weak. The poorly restrained sobs wrack through Genji’s body heavy and awful, and he can’t manage even the slightest protest as Jesse continues on, “I promise to be here until—”

Genji swiftly turns and covers Jesse’s mouth with his gloved hand. No words. They know how clumsy they can be, and they shouldn’t be used to speak of the end. Genji slowly removes his hand and leads Jesse to a small resting area of benches circling a frozen pond. Lily pads are trapped in the ice, frozen in time, frozen from the maladies of the world that they desperately try to run from. Their silence is enough, a welcomed peace in a year full of continuous battles. Jesse already knows what is to happen once Genji releases the latches of his visor.

I promise to be here.

Their second kiss is as perfect as the first, but it’s far, far different. Their fingers lace as Genji trails light kisses from Jesse’s jaw to his neck. Butterflies, fireflies, and sparrows flutter within Jesse’s stomach as their lips meet once more. The cold means nothing, the winter feels like spring. Jesse dreams that this will not be their last kiss, that there will be others. Many more. Genji will kiss him awake and kiss him goodnight. Jesse will fondly remember the yesterdays as Genji brings him into the todays and walks with him to the tomorrows.

The fever that leaves Jesse bedridden for days is worth it.

Chapter Text

January can be spent in two different ways.

As Jesse’s steps grow lighter, lively, Gabriel’s become darker, dejected.

When Jesse wakes up in the morning, he doesn’t know if it’s today or yesterday, but it doesn’t matter. He’s happy, even if it’s just for now. Genji spends more and more time away from Gibraltar, but when he’s there, the first person he makes sure to see is Jesse—to remind him that goodbye isn’t here yet. There are whispered exchanges and soft kisses in between. While Genji is on cloud nine, Jesse finds himself at Heaven’s gates with hands clinging tightly to the gold that separates him from true paradise.

There are days where they lay out a blanket, or even Jesse’s serape, on any random apartment roof by a beach. They lay down, looking up at the moon as they chat about everything: the weather, their families, their homes. Genji speaking of Hanamura is soft tones, twitches of his brow, and overwhelming silence when he almost mutters the beginning of someone’s name. It starts with an H. His father is seldom mentioned, only scraps of memories here or there. A small grudge rises from his bones and settles on his tongue, but hate never awakens; it remains dormant.

From Genji’s fond timbre and small smiles, his mother holds the largest part in his heart. He tells Jesse about a foldable fan she owned, a gift from her father on her fifteenth birthday. It is a deep blue with the draco constellation drawn using golden paint. She had accidentally lost it while visiting a flower shop, and she had been distraught for weeks. Genji had gone out of his way to make one for her, his room littered with failed fans surrounding his bed. She had walked in on him one day with gold paint all over his face. She couldn’t stop laughing despite the tears running down her face.

Both parents remain faceless, nameless.

Jesse’s New Mexico is a messy haze of cigarillo smoke, trembling fingers, and uneasy exhales. He mentions that his revolver is the same as his father’s and grandmother’s. A revolver defines a McCree as much as their Deadeye. Ernesto’s was called War and Peace, his grandmother’s Peacemaker. The spur is Jesse’s doing however, a small little joke. Genji snorts and expects nothing less.

Jesse shows Genji his father’s rosary one day; the crucifix is intricate silver with beads a soft pink. He tells Genji that his mother, Irina, had gotten it when she visited the Vatican when she was younger and then eventually gifted it to his father on the first anniversary of their marriage. It had become a symbol for Ernesto’s Deadeye, something he always kissed after taking a life. Jesse admits that he misses both of them dearly, but there is a dark grudge within him. He often wishes that his father never taught him Deadeye. Genji never looks away from him as he speaks, even going as far as to grab one of Jesse’s hands to gently kiss the fingertips.

They realize how much alike they are, each with a curse from their family name. The Father, the Son, and the Dead Spirit.

 

When Gabriel wakes up in the morning, he already wishes for tomorrow. He slams his fist on the alarm clock, cautious of the thin air that sees and the walls that hear. He looks into the mirror as he brushes his teeth with disdain. Failure and disbelief sew their threads of misery into his skin as the days go by. The smile that once came naturally cracks the corners of his mouth like glass. Others begin to notice, whispers become confrontation, concern distorts into suspicion. He stares at the manila folder on his desk and wonders where it all went wrong.

Jack no longer looks him in the eye, and Gabriel wonders if everything he has been told is true. Jack’s frequent visits to the UN Headquarters in New York City leaves Gabriel on edge. He wonders when he will wake up to a gun pointed to his head and handcuffs already on his wrists. Gabriel knows that he is innocent, that he loves Blackwatch with every fiber of his being and cannot fathom ever ruining it. Blackwatch is his family, his home. Los Angeles is covered in smog, his old home owned by another family. This is all he has left. Sometimes the death and the unspeakable shakes his very core, but this is all his at least. He built a golden city from bronze fragments. He may not be the Strike-Commander of Overwatch, but he’s damn well just as good as Jack. To see it all come apart at the seams leaves him in shambles until there is nothing left but anger.

 

 

 

“Yesterday you loved me,” Jesse brings in February with off key singing and gentle swaying of impromptu dance. “Today you’ll love me again.” He presses his nose against Genji’s as he smiles.

Genji groans and jerks away to hide his face in Jesse’s chest. “It is not even Valentine’s Day, and you are already troublesome.”

“Humor me, cyborg chief,” Jesse drawls as he resumes their mostly one-sided dance.

They look pretty ridiculous, but it’s fortunate that no one is watching. Jesse manages to dip Genji despite his protest and brings him back up into a soft hold. Genji licks his lips as their swaying finishes once more, the two standing still as the scent of seawater sticks to them. They’re on a patch of grass not too far from the ocean; it is a conscious decision to avoid sand in their shoes but still stay close enough to the sparkling waters.

“There was something my mother told me when I was young,” Genji murmurs as he rests his cheek against Jesse’s shoulders. He says mother with affection and sadness dripping from his lips into a puddle of nostalgia. She has no idea her dead son misses her. “The eyes speak as much as the mouth.”

Jesse clicks his tongue and holds Genji tighter. “It’s a shame you keep yours covered all the time.”

Genji’s laugh sounds like a short, broken huff as he playfully smacks Jesse’s arm without looking. “Does it not bother you”—he pauses to exhale, all amusement quickly scattering from his lungs as his fingers are almost digging into Jesse’s skin—“that I never told you that I love you?”

There is no answer at first. The notes of a saxophone from a band playing at a nearby cafe nestle in his beard, and a jazz beat lingers under his skin, but none of it is enough to fill the growing space that impossibly stands between him and Genji no matter how close they seem.

“You already have, Genji.”

 

 

 

March is spent in Northern Russia. The country still recovers from a harsh winter. The days are short, and the nights are long. The sun’s feeble attempts to warm the chilled lands go unnoticed. The temperature is below freezing despite the label of ‘spring.’ There is no snow, but the rivers and lakes are still frozen. Jesse refuses to go outside unless necessary. His mission partner shares his sentiment. A warm coffee mug is in Jesse’s hands as he sits in a chair by the window.

News travels that Genji is successful in the dismantling of the Shimada criminal empire. The year is 2069.

 

 

 

Ana Amari dies in April. There are daisies in Jesse’s hands, and Genji takes a single one. Fareeha Amari stands tall despite the tears that run down her face. She grips the sleeve of Gabriel’s black suit tightly and refuses to let go. Angela can barely hold herself together as she says her speech, a mess of stuttering stories and tearful goodbyes. Torbjorn bows his head and never stops sighing. Jack is to the far left beside a heavily grieving Reinhardt; his face is as hard as stone, and his nails dig into his palms when he clenches his fists. Jesse doesn’t say a word when he notices that Jack and Gabriel never acknowledge the other’s existence.

Simply knowing that Ana died under Jack’s watch is enough.

Jesse and Genji sit in silence in their hotel room in Cairo once the funeral is over. Jesse’s suit jacket lays flat on the bed while he lounges in a velvet chair with his tie in his hands and the first three buttons undone. Genji leans against the wall closest to the door with his arms folded. He looks dashing, pristine in his black suit, but it’s a shame Jesse can only see him this way under unfortunate circumstances. Neither say anything for a long time, only taking in comfort in each other’s presence. Ana’s death reminds them both that life is fragile. Jesse learns that his largest fear is dying before his loved ones. And later that night and the following morning, Jesse also learns what it’s like to fall asleep beside Genji and to wake up with him affectionately poking his soft stomach, breathing incoherent good mornings into his ear, and kicking off all the blankets.

He almost mistakes it all for a dream.

 

 

 

Genji reveals that Hanzo Shimada is his brother in May. He tells Jesse of their brotherly bonds, the growing pressures, and the ultimate tragedy. A sad story that is only seen written on the pages of a book. Jesse is speechless to the point Genji has to tenderly close his jaw. The cigarillo falls out of his mouth and lands on the floor, rolling away from his feet and into a manhole. This is the first time Jesse has ever wanted to kill a man he’s never met.

 

 

 

June carries days that vanish into thin air and nights that become the beginning to the end. In June the tomorrows stop coming, and the yesterdays repeat over and over again. The official investigation of Blackwatch by the UN destroys every bridge he has ever built. Jesse wonders when he himself is going to break and if Genji will be there to catch him.

Jesse and Genji say goodbye in King’s Row.

There are no tears, no yelling, and no arguing. No resentment for the yesterdays. There are no confessions, conversations, and promises either. No hope for the tomorrows. Genji’s path is uncertain, Jesse’s seems short. They simply stare at one another, searching for the right answer within each other’s eyes. Between the seconds there is both silence and noise. There are gentle almosts of I love you and I will be back and I’ll wait. Todays are all they have.

After a long struggle, Jesse manages to force a smile onto his face. It quivers and ultimately cracks as he says, “Don’t forget to send postcards with the green lipstick.” He is seventeen again.

Genji cannot take his visor off fast enough before he grabs Jesse roughly by the collar and presses their lips together. It is as perfect as their first and second kiss, but different enough to be considered a third. Jesse holds onto Genji tightly as if he is an apparition slowly disintegrating. When he becomes aware of his pounding heartbeat, he wonders if Genji’s is the same.

This is me, Jesse says silently as he grabs one of Genji’s hands and places it over his chest, in love with you. All barriers between them shatter at that moment.

Maybe it is not love. Or maybe it is. Jesse’s feelings may dwindle as the distance between them grows larger. Right now, it doesn’t matter. There are daisies beside the sparrow on the windowsill. Deadeye no longer watches. God makes the world stop and gives them their thought to be final moment. He doesn’t need to know anything, not of Genji’s past or their possible future together. Not even Genji’s virtues he carries proudly on his shoulders and the vices written in blood with his sword as the ink brush. All that matters is the sensation Jesse feels, something cracking slowly, deeply, permanently within him. New Mexico isn’t his only home, Genji is too.

Jesse decides to give Genji his father’s rosary. “See you soon, cyborg chief.”

 

 

 

Jesse counts the scratches on the steel table he has become acquaintances with. He lost count of how many hours he was within the interrogation room, and he wonders if he’ll stay here forever. The same thought had passed through his mind when he was seventeen, lip bloodied, and cuffed to the chair as he looked at the infamous Gabriel Reyes in the eye.

It has been a month since Genji left, and it seems he took all the good with him. Jesse day dreams of a yesterday where he decided to go with Genji. Maybe they would be in South Africa right now, looking like tourists on their honeymoon as they take photos with the penguins on the coast. He lazily rests his cheek against his fist as he pictures Genji sitting across from him, gesturing as he tells him a story. His memory acts as a shield for what is to come. The UN became an iron fist that punches its way through all the walls that form Blackwatch. Corruption stares Jesse in the face, and he doesn’t need to read the manila folder that lies glaringly in front of him. They even had the nerve to ask him if it is all Gabriel’s fault.

Criminals have been getting away with their wrongdoings more and more. The black market has risen from the ashes that Gabriel left in his wake once upon a time ago. Justice is a word without a definition, an entity without action, and a bloody stain on the white wall. There is no choice but to put it all in his own hands. When Jesse is finally released and walks out of the room, he decides there will be a time to leave this all behind.

 

 

 

“What are you doing, chiquito?” Jesse’s grandmother has to turn her whole body in order to see him. “You know what I told you about being on my right side.”

Jesse nods as he sticks his tongue out in thought. He weaves the daisies into her rocking chair with expert, thin fingers. “I’m making your chair really pretty. Mami loves daisies, and she wanted to see more around the house.”

His grandmother sighs and nearly sinks as her face becomes melancholy. “You speak as if she is not buried to the left of where you stand.” Her bony hands tap at the wooden arm rests in a slow funeral march. “How has your eye been?”

"I hate Deadeye,” Jesse whispers as if God is watching and will take him away any moment. He nearly bites his tongue as he spits, “They're only used for killing, not protecting.”

His grandmother laughs and shakes her head at his naivety. “Deadeye ain’t no protector. Never will be.”

Jesse grits his teeth and silently vows to find a way to change that.

 

[I am Deadeye, and Deadeye is me.]

 

 

 

Gabriel tells him to leave Blackwatch in August. They’re on the rooftop of an apartment building ways away from the Rock of Gibraltar. They use it as a hiding spot to speak freely. Gabriel leans against the railing with one of his hands propping up his chin. Jesse is to his right, cigarillo resting between his lips. There is a range of emotions that flash across Jesse’s face, but shock is not one of them. The silence is thick as Jesse stands there, picking the lint from his pocket as a gust of summer wind blows away the last traces of moonlight. There is music from an apartment below that has been partying for more hours than Jesse can count.

 “Leave while you still can.” Gabriel stares up at the sky, the sorrow on his face brightened by dawn’s early light. “It’s no longer safe for you here.”

 Suddenly all the melodies and rhythms fade away into an overwhelming silence.

 “And what about you, jefe?” Jesse purses his lips and spares him a glance. The Spanish that flows from his mouth is brittle, hesitant. It is an intimacy he only gives to family. There’s a part of him that wants to scream out: We both can leave.

 “I can’t leave with you,” Gabriel pushes himself off the railing and pats Jesse on the head as he walks past him. He already knows every thought, every plan, every excuse within Jesse’s mind before Jesse even knows them himself. “I have something I need to get to the bottom of.”

Jesse realizes he’s reaching out for a man who is already long gone. His arm slowly drops back down to his side, and he turns to softly tap the funeral march on the railing. He banishes all thought of Gabriel’s name carved elegantly into a tombstone. The music from below rushes back into his ears, and he lets it.

 

 

 

Angela gathers Jesse in a tight embrace as he says his farewells in September. Torbjorn nods empathetically from where he sits on a stool in the lounge. Lena is on the verge of sobbing but she strongly keeps her lips from quivering. Winston looks like he has everything planned out except for a goodbye, his mind shifting through index cards for a response that is not there. Jesse pictures Ana among the midst of teary yet understanding faces. Her smile is lopsided, melancholy as she walks up to him to place both her hands on his face. She would tell him that she’s proud and will support any decision that he makes. He doesn’t want to cry, and he doesn’t know why he’s crying as Reinhardt lifts him up into a bone crushing hug. Ana’s old, fading smile and the pain seeps into his skin one tear drop at a time.

He returns to his room to pack what he needs and finds a postcard from Vietnam on his desk with a green lipstick mark. Jesse tries to smile as he cries harder.   

 

 

 

Jesse spends his October back home in Sante Fe, New Mexico. The cycle of decaying begins again as autumn settles in the northern hemisphere. The backyard of his abandoned childhood home reeks of decomposed leaves and rosewater. His grandmother’s rocking chair is a destroyed heap on the patio. A soul hasn’t been here for years. Every cent to his name was used to unearth his mother and properly bury her in the local cemetery. Her tombstone is rightly placed below an aspen so that gold can mark her grave when the leaves fall.

He pays a visit to Rio Grande where he spread his father’s and grandmother’s ashes; cremation was the only option he was given. He returns home by nightfall and sits on the tire that snapped from the tree years ago. He watches everything, silent, immobile. As his cheeks hollow in on the cigarillo until the little flicker of orange disappears, a familiar urge to visit a church and kneel before a statue of Mary curdles in his guts. He sticks his hand underneath his shirt only to remember he no longer has the rosary.

Towards the end of the month he begins to miss Genji and Gabriel dearly. Often he can hear their laughter in the other room, causing him to barrel through the door, nearly knocking it off of its hinges. Disappointment bleeds from his eyes when all he finds is emptiness. White sheets over furniture and peeling wood floorboards under worn rugs. There are paintings on the wall of farms and valleys. Nothing that he wants is here. A breeze lifts the curtains as he shuts the door behind him on the way out. Some days feel like yesterday, and others are in between today and tomorrow. Memories give the disguise of time stopping, digging its heels between reality and dreams.

 

 

 

In November he visits the Church of the Divine Truth. He snorts at the name on the broken plaque by the double doors, brushing aside the vines that gathered over it. In small lettering at the very bottom it states: “Property belonging to the McCree family.” Jesse idly wonders why the city hasn’t bulldozed it. The familiar rumbles of friendship, laughter, and gambling from the bar next door sound no different from when he was ten years old. He carefully walks in after removing the boards from the door and sees the statue of Mary. Jesse mourns silently when he finds the bullet his father shot lodged in the wall behind her. He takes it out with nimble yet quivering fingers, cursing when his index finger is cut by jagged plaster. Jesse turns the bullet into a necklace as a vow to only use Deadeye for justice—to protect the innocent and eradicate the evil from the world. Deadeye will not be his curse, but his salvation. And he will do it on his terms, not God’s. Justice ain’t gonna dispense itself.  Jesse burns his Blackwatch shirt when he returns home and gives himself the title of Bounty Hunter.

 

 

 

The Headquarters of Overwatch meets its demise in December. The casualties: Jack Morrison, several Blackwatch members, and Gabriel Reyes. Jesse has many missed calls from Winston, and he refuses to answer a single one as he downs a glass of honey whiskey from where he sits in his grandmother’s rebuilt rocking chair. No matter how tightly he wraps the serape around him, he can’t stop the shivers that quake his body. Jesse swears he sees a black mist form at the bottom of his glass before it falls and smashes against the ground. He curls his hands around his thighs, as if he could claw the shivery feeling out from under his skin. Heaven isn’t here anymore. He gives in a tremble at a time, unwinding at the seams into an eruption of noiseless sobs. He doesn’t attend the funerals. He fills a vase in his living room with daisies.

Jesse celebrates the new year with a crumbled photo cradled in his palm, fingers bending the edges. His young, nineteen year old face grins up at him, almost mockingly, as he stands beside an equally happy Gabriel. Jesse is winking at the camera while Gabriel looks like he can hardly hold in his laugh, trying his best to not ruin the photo. Their fingers mimic guns pointed up to the sky, and the words Howdy Texas are scrawled in bright orange below their chests. A wasted ten dollars but it had been one of the best days of Jesse’s life.

 

 

 

He wakes up to January with swollen eyes and a sour aftertaste in his mouth.

Chapter Text

The years haven’t exactly been kind to Jesse.

Once Overwatch was officially disbanded, all the demons came out to play, diamond fingernails brushing off the dust that gathered on their shoulders. Evil never disappears, only waits. The loss of Jesse's home and his arm hit him hard, leaving nothing but a broken spirit as everything was consumed in flames. The glow of orange and red painted his face as a canvas of grief and loss, and all of it brought him back to the dwindling days of Blackwatch, to the days where he saw his family slowly picked apart, and Gabriel saved Jesse before he could save himself. Everything he cares about eases its way through the space between his fingers, and there is nothing he can do to grasp at running, poisoned water.

Jesse initially thought about crawling to his father’s church and dying slowly, silently as a man like him should. He would not wait for the angels with their golden, crooked halos and deformed wings to slowly descend from the ceiling, but for Gabriel, who would be in front of him, crouched as he helped him through the pain with a small smile and soothing words. His eyes would look like Ernesto's, warm and fatherly, like he is able to cast away the shadows with one flick of his gold watch clad wrist.

But an image of Genji flashed within his mind, accompanied by green fields and sparrows, and Jesse's greatest fear beat through him like kettledrums. An unspoken promise only found in the space between his heart and his rib cage, and where the warm wind blows in Cairo, and where Jesse realized he cannot die as Ana did.

Instead, he searched for the man responsible for creating Peacekeeper and the other revolvers that served as Deadeye's last rites to their victims: the legendary Blacksmith. Jesse's blood left a trail behind him, each step dragging heavy with despair until he fell to his knees at the stairs of a rotting porch. The Blacksmith took one look at him, cigarette between his lips and a cane clutched in his right, wrinkled hand, and decided to be his savior. Within a month, McCree returned to the streets of Santa Fe with a red gleam in his eye and a metal arm.

The skull he engraved is a bitter, needed reminder for the man who almost stopped dreaming. All those who did him wrong would pay, and justice would carve each and every tombstone.

“God didn’t create Deadeye,” Ernesto’s voice claws out of his watery grave with bits of rust and broken stained glass, “His wrath did.”

His grandmother’s eyepatch was in the top drawer of a dresser in her old room, wrapped in a satin napkin. The old rocking chair was filled with daisies again. He had been proud of himself for pulling it off after so many years, nimble fingers threading with ease. His mother’s radio was on the kitchen counter, replaying her gospel and jazz tunes as if she was still there listening to them. The postcards Genji sent him were in his room, tucked safely in his pillow case. And now all of it is gone.

Everything Jesse’s family ever owned now a broken, burned heap where daisies and wild grass no longer grow. Sparrows stopped visiting, the summer winds are filled with ash, the tree that held the tire swing is scorched. Jesse had no choice but to abandon it all. It took him two years to find out who did it, the arsonists covering their tracks in the winter’s darkness, cackling like hyenas as they leave him to die. And as he predicted, the Ivory Cobalts had risen once more with the help of Deadlock, and Jesse is at the center of it all.

Whether he likes it or not.

But there was a portrait of a young woman on the chimney in the living room that Jesse mourned for the most. Brown face radiating with beauty and optimism with the name Milagros neatly written in black ink at the bottom right. Jesse never met her, only knowing her through his grandmother’s memories, and the portrait had been her most prized possession. She was his grandmother’s wife—mamita, as Ernesto called her as he prayed in front of her every day; a life taken too soon at the hands of Deadeye. That was when his grandmother lost her eye, stripping herself of the McCree name, and began to consider maybe there was a curse truly placed upon her family. Deadeye could not separate the innocent from the sinners, killing all in their path, bang bang bang. No longer a protector, or perhaps they never were one. Time, humanity, and grief distorted God’s greatest weapon.

Jesse remembers the large bounty looming over his head and thinks, God’s wrath isn’t the only thing they should fear.

He has made quite the reputation for himself since the fire. Despite the rise of wanted posters, he is regarded as a hero throughout New Mexico and Texas. No matter what mistakes his family made, he will never have innocent blood spilled by his hands nor on his watch. Unfortunately, the rest of America—due to the media and Talon’s inside influence—don’t like him very much. McCree's name is chewed up and spat out at every corner, buried under accusations and offensives he can't even recall doing. His incident on the hypertrain only confirmed whatever suspicions he had. It’s a shame that Blackwatch isn’t as cold and dead as Gabriel, and Jesse refuses to let them tarnish Gabriel’s name even further.

But due to his heroics, a year and several months ago he was forced to lay low out of the country, and decided to head to Hanamura on a whim. He didn’t have to actually go so far, but a part of him wanted to somehow find Genji again, to believe that the cyborg was already waiting for him. Jesse had gone as far as to picture one of those romance movie reunions, and he nearly walked into a wall daydreaming over something so ridiculous. And before the ill-fated shootout over the ramen shop robbery attempt, Jesse had visited the Shimada compound with a heavy, not exactly hopeful heart. He watched the empty home from afar, praying for any sign of glittering green. Like the glass you find buried deep on the coastal shores, smothered by years of waves, seaweed, the tide and shifting of sands. Jesse held his cigarillo between his fingers, monochromatic white smoke around his countenance as he exhaled. He believed Genji would be running into his arms within seconds, shouting in delight as Jesse twirled him about. But all he caught was a glimpse of a quiver filled with arrows and the end of a yellow ribbon.

Jesse thought nothing of it then.

 

 

 

Thirty seven year old Jesse McCree’s newest undertaking lies in the Ghost Note Cabaret, the old Roswell UFO Museum that had been transformed into a restaurant known for its holograms of departed singers and being a hideout for common crooks. Months of failure has finally led him to a jackpot. March proves itself to be promising. The year is 2076.

Tonight his cowboy getup is gone, replaced with a white dress shirt, midnight slacks—the perfect disguise for jazz night. His black tie is bundled up in his pocket beside his lighter, and his sleeves are rolled up to his elbows. He leans back into his comfy chair, black pork pie hat, with Peacekeeper concealed underneath, resting respectfully on his expensively clothed table as he enjoys the show with a Hail Mary on the tip of his tongue. He takes a small sip from his glass of honey whiskey before he undoes the top three buttons on his shirt.

Blue skies smilin' at me,” Ella’s blue, transparent form sings happily on stage, foot tapping, dress sparkling. “Nothin' but blue skies do I see.”  

McCree admits that although he is not much of a religious man anymore—only a simple prayer here or there before risky business, he wonders if the voice of God sounds like Ella Fitzgerald. His eyes never leave Ella’s swaying form, lamenting the days he fell asleep during Sunday Mass as a child. He might believe that a man like him has no business in Heaven, but he will damned if he is to be denied from hearing her pure timbre for just a fleeting moment as he stands outside the Gates awaiting his judgement.

He snorts and wonders if that is a confession worth telling to the priest down the street.

Blue days, all of them gone. Nothin' but blue skies from now on.

The end of the song is met with vigorous applause. The hologram smiles and waves before disappearing in wisps of blue smoke. McCree whistles lowly and watches an Omnic dressed in a pinstripe suit set up the next act with the holoprojector on the balcony to the right of the stage. He senses movement behind him and slowly lays his hand on his hat, waiting for a time to strike.

A cold gun barrel presses against the back of his neck, and McCree decides the priest can wait.

 

The potato sack over his head is a little too comical, a little too annoying. It scratches at his cheeks and pulls at his beard, leaving him stuck between a state of amusement and irritation. McCree mourns over his new slacks, feeling the rocks cut up the material over his knees. His grievances go unheard, the grip on his arms getting tighter. A harsh insult is thrown his way, and the cold barrel is at his neck again.

Maybe he will not play nice today.

When the sack is removed, a cocktail of metallic smoke and the thick scent of alcohol force its way into his nostrils. He bites back a cough, taking the time to observe his surroundings as a thick rope binds his wrists. From the piles of hay and wooden beams, he deduces he is in a barn not too far from the Ghost Note Cabaret.

A stranger in leather with a cigarette between his teeth walks into McCree’s line of sight. He is definitely much older than McCree, the unflattering lighting from the wall lanterns enshrouds him in jaundice yellow, making him more sickly than menacing.

McCree opens his big mouth. “I would like to suggest medical atten—”

Someone from behind grabs a fistful of hair and tells him to shut up. McCree grunts as he is forced to keep his head tilted back, staring directly into the eyes of his captor. The man remains silent, staring at him with narrowed eyes before pulling out a canteen and spilling all of its contents onto McCree.

“I hear you like honey whiskey,” he rasps, voice grating McCree’s ears. “All men like you seem to.”

Low murmurs fill the barn from people McCree cannot see, the noise sounding like rattlesnakes. The stranger in leather holds up a hand and a hush falls upon all of them.

“Men like me?” McCree shifts slightly, trying to test the rope’s knot only for it to dig into his skin.  

“Yeah, had a guy named Reyes sitting in that chair a long time ago. Even drank a glass of honey whiskey at GN just like you.” He laughs and lights the end of his cigarette. “I can tell you’re trying to do what he failed to.”

Jesse schools his expression, blankly gazing at the man in front of him with indifference. Ana’s voice is at the back of his mind: You two are so alike. He refrains from humming the funeral march. Instead Jesse wonders how the man managed to fit through the barn doors. His ego is far too large to fit through anything smaller than the width of a coal barge on the Ohio River. The hand gripping his hair slowly releases his tender roots, and the man walks up to him and bends his knees slightly to be at Jesse’s eye level.

“I know who you are, McCree. You killed many of my finest men ten years ago.” He exhales, seething white vehemence from his lungs. “I was hoping that the fire killed you though.” He shakes his head and grabs his cigarette to press against McCree’s right forearm, watching in satisfaction when the cowboy grimaces. “Once Overwatch’s lap dog, now vigilante. Maybe it’s time for you to meet the hangman’s knot—a reminder to all the fools like you that Rigs ain’t ever goin’ down.”      

McCree smiles.

Checkmate.

“I think jail would be a better place.”

Rigs gives him a confused stare, eyes narrowing, lips twisting into a sneer. Good. Let him wonder. McCree smashes his forehead against Rigs’s face, hearing a loud crunch that reduces the man to a crumpled heap on the ground. He hunches over to stand on his feet and steps backwards quickly, ramming his chair into the only lackey wielding a gun. Four men make themselves known with nail bats, all surrounding him with bloodthirsty grins.

McCree whistles to the tune of Blue Skies and almost laughs when their faces twist in horror as the rope previously binding his wrists falls at his feet. He rubs the reddened skin of his right wrist before grabbing one of the legs of the broken chair and whacking it across a lanky, middle aged man’s face to his left.

When the last man is on his knees, begging for his life with a bloodied nose, McCree clicks his tongue and rolls his shoulders. He grabs the fallen revolver on the ground, peeved by the knockoff of his prized Peacekeeper and tells the man he’s free to go. Before the guy can take more than one step, McCree shakes his head at his naivety and pistol whips him hard enough to lose a tooth.

There's a tree stump in a Louisiana swamp with a higher IQ, McCree inwardly snorts.

As McCree empties the chamber and tosses the revolver into a pile of hay, he hears the naive man begin to softly sing the alphabet backwards. He takes one look at the fallen bodies and nods his head.

“That’s what you get for burning down my home.”

Police cars speed past him as he walks back to the Ghost Note Cabaret, a bounce almost in his step. Although he will receive no payment for his doings, he feels good about himself for the first time. Another low life criminal off the street. That is good enough in his book. Hopefully Rigs will be given up to three life sentences.

As McCree walks through the entrance, a waitress hands him Peacekeeper and his hat with a shy smile. He thanks her for her kindness before he leaves. There is something odd within his hat, it is white, thin, and full of pictures he cannot see clearly under the moonlight. He puts Peacekeeper in its holster and grabs the paper, softly rubbing his thumb on the smooth surface. It’s a postcard from Nepal.

He turns it and sees a green lipstick mark. The huff that escapes his lips sounds skeptical, but he pockets it anyway.

 

 

 

“What keeps you alive, young man?” a graying priest leans back into the bench, legs crossed as he sits beside Jesse. “What drives you forward?”

The weekend visits to Gibraltar’s Cathedral of Saint Mary are his little secret, something he will never reveal to Captain Reyes. It gives him a little peace of mind, even if he isn’t the type to soul search. He had stumbled upon the church one morning after leaving the Watchpoint base to smoke in peace, where Reyes wouldn’t slap the cigarillo out of his mouth and call it a death sentence for his eighteen year old lungs.   

“What answer you want, Reverend? God? My mother? Love?” Jesse sucks his teeth, eyes trained on the stained glass depicting the Virgin. He’s not used to being called a young man since he is only made of tobacco and gunpowder—someone beyond their years.

“The truth would be nice,” he quips in return.

A genuine laugh spills from the cowboy’s mouth, and he quickly attempts to smother it with his hand.

“You caught me.”

McCree sharply inhales, the church melting and molding into the first night of April. He eyes the glass of bourbon, throwing all caution to the wind as he chugs all of it down. The bartender gives him a strange look, but says wisely says nothing, preferring to ignore his existence until he became piss drunk and on the ground slobbering.

I never answered ‘im, McCree admits silently as he wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, not that I’d know now what to say anyway.  

Nothing came after the mysterious appearance of the postcard. False hope. Someone was playing games with him. He had been angry, disappointed, and relieved all at the same time. As much as he wished to reunite with Genji, perhaps it was not the best idea. Everyday McCree becomes far different than the man Genji knew, and he doesn’t want Genji’s last memory of him to be nicely dressed in a coffin, covered in daisies. McCree had finally accepted Deadeye as a part of him, the bloodied napkins dwindling, but at what cost? He may not be the Devil, but he's oh so very close. And after waiting several days after that night, he realized that his fight with Rigs won’t put him in Deadlock’s good graces. He was on the next train to Kentucky before the end of the month, crumpling the postcard and throwing it out the window.

A bar is his refuge tonight, the dim lights perfectly hiding his face. His blood alcohol levels are probably now consistently over the legal limit, but drinking has become something like breathing for him, so it’s not something he consciously pays attention to. All around him are wasted patrons, apparitions, and shadows all decaying into their beer and vodka. McCree pities all of them, wondering if they all lost their motivations. There is no happiness or grief, no movement, no struggle. They all sit still. Soft whispers mistaken for prayers. If he watches them all closely, he can make out white starlight slowly rising from their fingertips towards the heavens where salvation is promised.

McCree dreams he’s sitting in the middle of a graveyard, already one of the ghosts he’s trying so hard not to be.

 

 

 

The recall comes in May. McCree is a nervous silhouette standing in front of the window of his motel room, foot tapping against tile. Strokes of rainwater drip down the glass, painting it with thick gray. Pitiful noises echo through the room. He realizes it’s coming from him; a small, bitter laugh forcing itself through chapped laughs. Instead of tobacco, he believes the smell to be the damp earth outside, his heel digging into soft soil that reminds him so much of home. The television behind him drones on about Numbani and King’s Row. Something about a terrorist attack and the death of an Omnic monk. A flickering image of Ana sits on the bed behind him. Her lips move but no sound comes out. She vanishes when his phone rings.

“McCree speaking,” he grunts into the transmitter. He removes his hat and rests it on the table to his right. “If this is about a job—”

“Hello to you too, Jesse,” a familiar timbre enters like a breath of fresh air.

Jesse almost drops his phone, but he scrambles to press it tightly against his ear. “Winston? That you?”

It’s a raging storm of emotions that Jesse keeps buried. As if God has been suffocating him since he separated from Genji and suddenly decides to let go. Jesse has to press himself against the wall to keep from toppling over. Winston explains to him slowly that Overwatch is now active under his temporary leadership. Athena had sent out the recall signal, but it had gone mostly unanswered much to Winston's disappointment. Lena is already in Watchpoint: Gibraltar, having gone there after the assassination of Mondatta during his speech in King's Row. Jesse releases a breath he thought stuck within his lungs and sees a part of his reflection in the dreary window. A silver of faith twinkles within his eyes, desperate to hold on, coaxing him to take this chance.

“Tell me where and when, big guy.” He has nothing to lose.

Within less than two weeks, McCree touches down in Gibraltar on a rather shoddy cargo ship Winston arranged for him. The trip took longer than planned due to a tropical storm off the coast of New York. It had been a grueling experience, and one that McCree never wishes to experience again. As he walks out of the docks, he raises his arm to gently sniff and recoils at the stench that greets him; he smells like foam packing peanuts and fish. McCree tries not think about the time he had been at a Blackwatch base in San Diego, lounging lazily on a particularly hot day when Captain Reyes walked into the room smelling like a walking corpse. He had nearly lost his nose to the putrid smell and could barely ask Gabriel why he stunk.

Gabriel sucked his teeth and confessed a skunk had gotten the best of him while on a job in El Dorado. Ana walked into the room at that exact moment and loudly demanded that Gabriel take a bath immediately. Jesse’s sides were hurting as he chortled, barely able to dodge the black beanie Gabriel threw at his face.

McCree purses his lips and looks up towards the Rock of Gibraltar. He wonders if anything truly waits for him there, and if he made the right choice to come back.

 

Lena is the same bundle of joy he remembers as she envelops him in an almost relieved embrace. She doesn’t mind the smell, or kindly chooses to ignore it, and buries her face into his shoulder. The height difference is almost comical, the way she stands on her tip toes in order to properly fit in his arms. Not having hugged someone in a long time, he awkwardly pats her back, but hopes she understands that the feeling is mutual. He sees Winston approaching in the distance from the entrance of his lab.

“Good to see you too, Lena,” Jesse wheezes as she pulls away.

“It’s Tracer now!” Tracer grins and takes a step back. She proudly shows him the insignia on the right shoulder of her brown jacket. “Neat, huh?”

“Neat,” Jesse echoes. He doesn’t realize how hard he is smiling until Winston repeats Tracer’s actions with a hug of his own. “How ya been, Winston?” Jesse pats Winston on the arm once he sets him down.

“Oh, you know,” Winston vaguely gestures before pushing up his glasses, “science’ing around.”

Tracer huffs at the intended misdirection of the joke, fists resting on her hips despite the not-so-genuinely-apologetic look Winston gives her. Jesse wonders how many times she has driven Winston up the wall with monkey and banana puns before he arrived. Neither seem to have aged a day, and Jesse believes that perhaps seven years isn’t as long as he believed it to be. A feeling of belonging washes tide with his being, and he has to hold himself back from looking too giddy. Winston leads them to his lab, muttering about not having not cleaned up for guests. Tracer laughs and reminds him that he barely ever keeps the place tidy anymore. Jesse shakes his head and listens to Tracer’s chatter with a softened heart. However, the emptiness of the Watchpoint is almost unnerving, and Jesse thinks for a moment that the place could use a little more green.

 

 

 

They meet for the first time again in June.

Jesse is on the rooftop where he and Gabriel parted ways. There’s no music this time, no party that lasts until well past midnight. He is bent over the metal railing, arms tucked beneath his chest as he counts the shadows on the pavement below illuminated by the street lamps. He thinks about everything and nothing. It’s still just him, Winston, and Tracer as the members of the newly recalled Overwatch. Angela had responded with displeasure, not wishing to rejoin because she believes the world is better off. Reinhardt accidentally destroyed his phone mid conversation, and Winston is still waiting for a call back. Genji and Torbjorn remain a mystery, but reports of the latter continue to appear in news articles. It took them a while to restore most of the living quarters to its former glory. But nobody touched Gabriel’s, Jack’s, nor Ana’s private rooms. It is best to leave the metaphorical coffins unearthed, unbothered.

The past seems to be something that continues to scratch at Jesse's heels and cut its fingers on his spurs. In the middle of counting the fifth shadow, Jesse’s bones begin to ache, and his ribs stab his lungs. He can’t breathe and everything hurts, spins, hurts, breaks. This has been repeating since Winston informed him about a man named Reaper. A mercenary working with Talon that sucked the souls of his victims; he lives up to his name. Jesse had shivered over the description, wondering what page of the bible Reaper slithered out of. He feels like he’s seen the man before, where the long road leads to nowhere, and the lone house stands tall beside him as some sort of judge. Owl mask. Death comes. Jesse takes a step back from the railing and releases a ragged breath. He lets himself be vulnerable, completely unaware of the rest of the world—at its mercy.

Two arms wrap around his waist, and he nearly shrieks and bolts overs the railing. The curve of his back fills a hard chest. The scent of strawberries makes him freeze.

“I have returned home.”

Four words can kill a man better than a single bullet. The words repeat over and over again, as though they are doomed to endlessly echo in his head forever. Jesse swallows, and it’s an odd feeling, like there is sand trapped in his throat.

An utterance of “Jesse?” sinks into him, down into his bones. The arms leave his waist, and Jesse is almost afraid to turn as a hissing noise fills the quiet air. He sees a flash of green, brighter than he remembers it to be, from the corner of his eye.

There is a request, much more than a command: “Look at me.”

Jesse holds his breath as he moves. The moonlight runs down Genji’s face, highlighting all of the soft creases and the scarred flesh, and Jesse thinks that Genji looks so lovely like this, so remarkably beautiful. It is a familiar sight, yet it seems as if this is a Genji he does not know; he’s not as angry as he used to be. The two more than friends, but somehow like strangers on a rooftop. Jesse refrains from hiding his face, but the fond expression Genji has is more than enough to give him confidence and relief.

“Welcome home.” Jesse takes a step forward to cup Genji’s jaw, caressing the metal plate with his thumb. “You’ve changed.” And Jesse doesn’t only mean the armor upgrades, how greener he’s become.

“I am whole”—Genji wavers, his lips twist for a moment—”no, that is a lie. Many times I have missed you on my journey.” He smiles, softly, a little broken. “And I thought of returning to you. I may have begun to accept myself, but a part of me still involves you.”

His confession makes Jesse’s head light and dizzy. Jesse tenderly asks if he can kiss him, and the small nod and breathy yes is enough to press both his hands on Genji’s cheeks and connect their lips. It’s a sweet, chaste kiss that has Genji reeling in, pressing himself close to Jesse. Their fourth kiss is a mess of smiles, fumbling fingers, and silent I love you’s. Everything about Genji seems new, abrupt, yet familiar and warm. Like a memory that may have slipped his mind, but sticks, deep, deep within his very soul as if it was made to be there. All yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows come rushing in all at once. They pull away when they can barely breathe.

Just like before, Jesse presses both of their hands against his chest as he breathes in deeply. There is no space between them this time. Genji’s artificial warmth seeps through his shirt and it makes his heart soar, revealing words from somewhere caring and gentle he did not know existed: “I love you.”

Genji pulls him as close as possible, close enough that he can feel Jesse’s exhales on his tongue. God watches in silence and with breath as they kiss again. Jesse finds it hard not to smile as Genji softly traces I love you on his arm with a sole finger. Time for them no longer feels like grains of sand slipping through their fingers. Jesse doesn’t have to ask if they can stay together forever, and how many tomorrows are left. His and Genji’s path are no longer separate, but straight towards the horizon where the stars glow gold and dusk is always warm. They may not be able to see their future, but they know it is there. Jesse almost wants to search for the old priest and give him the answer that took Jesse years to figure out. 

A small, disbelieving laugh that escapes Jesse fractures the calm, and he tries to smother it with his left hand when they pull apart. “I didn’t get as many postcards as I was hoping for, by the way.” Guilt inwardly rattles him for throwing the last one away.

“You are a hard man to track,” Genji scoffs, breathing ragged, and lightly hits him on the chest. “I had to pay someone to find you. It is quite embarrassing to give a total stranger a postcard that I kissed an hour before.” He rolls his eyes and grips his visor harder in his hand. “And green lipstick makes you look foolish when you live in a monastery.”

“Monastery?” Jesse’s eyebrows shoot up.

Two heartbeats of silence. “It is a long story.”

Jesse removes his serape and rests it on the ground. Just like old times.

“Well, it seems we got all night.”

Their fingers lace together as Genji describes his travels around the world. He had visited many countries, mountains, valleys, forests. Through his descriptions, Genji reveals that he often thought of Jesse and wished for him to be there. The Shambali had taken him in two years after he had left Overwatch. There he met Mondatta and by extension, Zenyatta, who is now his mentor and best friend. Genji tells him that he initially loathed Zenyatta when they first met, even wanted nothing to do with him and considered his teachings to be wrong. Jesse snorts and asks why that sounds so familiar, vaguely referring to their own first encounter. Genji shoots him a dry look, and Jesse swiftly apologizes. Genji doesn’t go too into detail as to how Zenyatta exactly helped him, and Jesse knows not to pry. Jesse isn't very keen on talking about himself either, and they mutually understand the needed secrets. Genji does reveal, however, that he knows Jesse went to Hanamura. The online news is rather descriptive about a ramen saving cowboy. He asks Jesse if he saw an archer, and Jesse shrugs.

“I remember some yellow ribbon and a quiver.” Jesse scratches his chin as memories shift through his brain, each plucked and sorted by nimble fingers. He eventually shakes his head as he answers, “I’m afraid I was too busy interested in the green.”

Genji rolls his eyes; the disappointment on his face is clearly there. “Shame.”

“Someone I should know about?” Jesse removes his hat and places it on Genji’s head. A form of comfort.

“Hanzo visits the compound every year to honor me,” Genji licks his lips and holds his hand tighter. The irony rolls off his tongue and gathers in a pool in his lap. “Several months ago, I decided to reveal I was alive.”

Jesse winces while trying to stifle his own rage. “How’d that go?”

“As awful as any reunion between two brothers can go.” Genji snorts, his tone dry. “I wished to kill him, you know. I wished to take his life the very way he took mine.” He looks up towards to the moon with a pensive expression. “But the minute he told me to, I couldn’t.” His shoulders sag.

“Why’s that?” Jesse has an inkling that he shouldn’t be asking. The words come out anyway.

“Because I care about him enough to forgive him. Perhaps there is still a piece of me that hates him for what he did, yet I do not wish to see him dead.” A pause. “Once, but not anymore.”

Jesse doesn’t remember when they leave the rooftop and head to his room. Jesse barely registers waking up in the morning to Genji in his arms. Despite the fact that it happened one other time, Jesse feels that Genji perfectly fits where he lays. As if on this mattress, together, is what they were always waiting for. They refuse to leave the warmth of the bed sheets until well past noon. But even leaving his room altogether is quite the challenge. Jesse finds himself sitting on his desk, Genji between his legs as he trails light kisses from Jesse’s collar bones to his cheeks. The memory of Jesse's fever tickles at the back of his neck. He is at the periphery of dream and reality again. Except his eyes are not heavy with sleep. Jesse pictures sand all around them, sparrows and seagulls flying overhead. The smell of the ocean sticks to the ends of his hairs, and Genji’s green reflects over the water like twinkling constellations made of satellites.

“Do you believe in fate, cyborg chief?” Jesse presses his face close to Genji’s so that his lips hover above scarred skin but never touching. His left hand is on Genji’s lower jaw, his metal fingertips resting below Genji’s ear.

“I believe that no matter how far apart we are,” Genji murmurs with dilated pupils and rosy cheeks, “we will always find each other on a rooftop beneath the stars.” Together. Lasting. Happy.

Jesse’s chest throbs. Questions, questions, questions. “Why there?”

His father's rosary is placed in his right hand. As his fingers curl over the intricate silver, innocence and intimacy precipitates from the dampness in his palm. Jesse becomes suddenly aware of the rain drumming against the window. Pitter patter against the glass.

“It is there we were intended to be.”