“The ice does not look safe,” Hanzo commented as he glared at it.
“We just have to stay inside the markers,” Genji laughed as he trotted out. “It’s part of the trail, Hanzo! They wouldn’t let anyone out here if it wasn’t safe. Too much liability, right?”
Hanzo let out a low noise as he cautiously followed his brother. It was obvious that Hanzo was uncertain about the river they were crossing. They could see the water rushing underneath, but the ice was thick enough to keep it from breaking. Genji was tempted to jump up and down to prove to his brother that it was safe, but he knew it would only make his brother have a heart-attack.
They were half-way across when a sound like thunder filled the air. They looked at each other in confusion before the ice under their feet heaved. They both were driven to their knees, Genji’s chin bouncing painfully off of the ice as he landed on his belly. He blinked as he felt cold water against his cheek and scrambled to his feet.
“Genji! Run!” Hanzo shouted as he scrambled to his feet and bolted back the way they came.
Genji spun to follow and the ice heaved under his feet again. He fell and he watched water rush up to meet him. He hit the freezing water and the air was driving from his lungs as he gasped. Cold water rushed down his throat and he broke the surface spluttering. His hands slapped uselessly at the ice.
“Don’t flail!” Hanzo shouted. “Get your mitt on the ice, Genji! It’ll freeze!”
Genji managed to slap his hand down and almost laughed as his mitt did stick to the broken sheet of ice. Hanzo was crawling towards him slowly, his brown eyes wide as he moved. He could see his brother telling him that it was going to be alright; he couldn’t hear anything over his hammering heart. Genji felt his teeth chattering together as he tried to haul himself up onto the broken ice. He sank through it, floundered until Hanzo grabbed his hand.
He hauled him up onto the ice and they scrambled away from the edge. Genji got shakily to his feet, shivering and hugging his chest as the cold wind bit through his soaked clothing. Hanzo shook his head and urged him along; they weren’t too far from the lodge. He wouldn’t die of hyperthermia.
The sound like thunder roared again and the ice cracked in front of them. Hanzo and Genji looked at each other. A sad smile played across Hanzo’s face as tears gathered in his eyes. He grabbed Genji by the jacket, yanked him backwards for momentum and then threw him hard towards the shore. Genji landed hard and rolled onto the bank, coughing as his head and ribs ached from the impact. He looked up just in time to watch Hanzo fall through the ice as huge chunks from upstream slammed into him and be swept away by the current.
Genji screamed and bolted down the river, screaming for his brother. He had to reach him! He had to reach him! He had to…!
Sharp teeth dug into his nose and Genji started awake. He blinked at the angry bearded dragon sitting on his chest and slowly smiled.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Storm; did I wake you?” he asked.
He carefully picked the fat lizard up and placed him on his shoulder. Storm snuggled close, glaring at him as he slowly stopped puffing up. He headed over to Storm’s enclosure and gently set him down inside, smiling as he ran straight over to his basking rock. Storm looked up at him and cocked his head to the side.
“Yah, just a dream, Storm,” he soothed. “Don’t you worry about it, my sassy darling.”
Storm lifted his head up and thumped his tail. Genji smiled as he fished out a hornworm for his pet and offered it on a pair of tweezers. Storm happily snapped it up, crunching it loudly between his teeth as he ate. Genji sighed happily at the sight before he offered another worm.
“Hey, Genji-kun,” Jesse McCree poked his head into the room. “You up?”
“I am,” Genji waved a hand at his roommate.
“Your nose is bleeding,” Jesse said as he walked over. “Storm bite you again?”
“Yah,” Genji sighed.
“Nightmare?” Jesse asked softly.
Genji nodded. “Same one. Hasn’t changed.”
“Sorry,” Jesse sighed. “You know, you don’t have to go to work if you aren’t up to it; bossman doesn’t have to know.”
“Nah, I’m good,” Genji smiled. “Storm should be fine in his vivarium.”
“I’ll let him out if he needs it,” Jesse smiled as he patted Genji’s shoulder. “I promise not to drop the little fatty.”
Storm’s tail thumped angrily against his rock and he shot Jesse a withering look. Jesse blew Storm a kiss before he walked Genji to the front door of the apartment. He kissed Genji’s cheek, smiling as he wished him a good day at work.
Genji honestly wasn’t sure what to call what he had with Jesse. It felt impersonal to call them “fuckbuddies”, but they certainly weren’t dating. He loved the man to death, but they were not compatible in that way. He didn’t know what he would do without Jesse there to help him get through his broken mess of a life.
He stuck his earbuds into his ears and pushed off the sidewalk to start biking to work.
“Come on, darlin’,” Jesse cooed.
Hanzo let himself be picked up by Jesse’s massive hands and flattened himself against the warm palms. Some days his damn palms put his basking rock to shame. He’d never make it known how grateful he was for Jesse helping Genji get through his life, but he was incredibly grateful for the huge oaf.
Yes he was smelly with his stupid body spray that he bathed in and he really needed to run a comb through his hair more often than once a week and he should take better care of that beard of his, but he helped Genji however he needed it. There was only so much a sassy little lizard could do when his brother broke down into tears in the middle of the living room and he was stuck on the counter.
Jesse carried him into the living room and sat down on the couch. He leaned back with a content grunt, setting Hanzo down on his chest as he kicked his feet up onto the coffee table. Hanzo wrinkled his nose and nipped at Jesse’s chin, trying to convince him to get his dirty socks off the coffee table, but all the big man did was push him down his chest so that he had to scramble back up to get back to his favourite basking spot.
He sprawled out on Jesse’s chest, subtly pressing his ear against the warm flesh so he could listen to Jesse’s heartbeat. Jesse flicked through channels, his huge fingers rolling over Hanzo’s back delicately. Hanzo closed his eyes contently, forcing himself not to think about how he wished he was a human receiving this attention from Jesse McCree instead of his brother’s pet lizard.
He wanted to feel Jesse’s arms wrap around him. He wanted to hear that soft rumbling laugh against his cheek as he snuggled into Jesse’s hairy body. He wanted to be called stupidly adorable pet names while Jesse ran his fingers through his hair.
He huffed softly and let himself doze in fantasies that would never become a reality. He woke when Jesse moved to get himself something to eat, shifting Hanzo up to his shoulder so that he could cling better. Hanzo looked around his diminutive kingdom and smirked a little. Yes, an apartment that was just barely big enough for two people was more than enough to satisfy him. He was king of the apartment and Genji and Jesse knew this. He was an expert cockroach killer and he saved Genji from a number of evil spiders that found their way into the apartment. They never had anything to fear so long as he was there to keep them safe.
“Apple?” Jesse held up a chunk of apple as he made himself a fruit salad.
Hanzo happily accepted the chunk of apple, crunching it between his teeth. The juice went everywhere, but Jesse didn’t care. He just kept lifting up little pieces of fruit until Hanzo refused to eat anymore. He returned to the couch after he’d drizzled the salad in a Greek yogurt dressing of some sort that Hanzo wasn’t allowed to taste test no matter how hard he tried.
A Western of some sort was playing on the television and Hanzo shifted around to watch it. He had no idea what was going on, but Jesse loved the damn movies so he patiently waited for the scruffy, adorable human to finish before demanding attention and affection. He let out a small yawn before flopping his head down against Jesse’s chest and falling asleep.
Genji looked over the selection of Bearded Dragon supplements and didn’t notice the omnic until he bumped into him. “Oh, I’m sorry,” he apologized. “Didn’t see you there.”
The omnic tilted his head to the side and the ring of spinning orbs around his neck fanned out. “That is alright; I did not see you either,” the omnic said in an amazingly gentle voice. “You are looking for something in particular?”
“Yah, my beardie needs some more vitamin supplements and I’m just comparing prices,” Genji nodded. “You?”
“I am here to look at the baby animals,” the omnic chuckled and covered where his mouth would be if he was human. “I find them quite soothing after a long day at work.”
“They are pretty cute,” Genji agreed as glanced at the rows of little lizard piling up on each other. “You have a preference?”
“Any little animal will do,” the omnic sighed happily. “They are so young and their energy is very comforting.”
“You can sense energy?” Genji asked in surprise.
“I can,” the omnic smiled. “But, please, allow me to introduce myself. I am Dr. Tekhartha Zenyatta.” The omnic bowed his head. “I help my brother Mondatta run the local psychiatric clinic.”
Genji blushed. “I’m actually a client there,” he murmured softly.
“Oh?” Zenyatta perked up. “How do you find your sessions? Not that I want detailed information; confidentiality and all of that legal business. I am just curious how my peers are doing.”
“They’re…helping,” Genji said slowly.
“Not as fast as you would like,” Zenyatta offered with a gentle glow of the nine dots on his forehead.
“No,” Genji sighed as he stuffed his hands in his pockets.
He’d accepted the sessions because he’d had enough of the guilt. He wanted to get better and get on with his life and maybe stop having nightmares of how he let his brother die under the ice. It was taking longer than he would have liked to open up to the sweet-voiced omnic that was his councillor, but he was too scared to ask for someone else.
“No one that steps through our clinic doors has an easy life, my friend,” Zenyatta soothed. “Do not feel bad because you are experiencing difficulties. We need hardship in our lives to grow. It is only when that hardship becomes detrimental to our health that we must think of a way to alleviate it. But, come, no more talk of such serious things. There are kittens in need of attention.”
Genji smiled and followed the omnic over to the fur-baby section of the store. He was absolutely smitten with the way Zenyatta crooned over the kittens tumbling around in their playpen. Most of them were rescues with one or two being born from one of the adult rescues. Genji scooped up a pretty little orange tabby and tapped her nose, crooning softly as Zenyatta cradled two calicos in his arms.
“Holy shit, I think I’m in love!” Genji shouted as he burst into the apartment. “Jesse! Jesse, I think I’m in love!”
Jesse turned to regard his friend and let out a snort of amusement. Storm cocked his head at Genji as his owner trotted into the house and pirouetted near the counter, lifting his leg up and sighing as he rested his elbows on the counter. Jesse wiped his hands clean on a hand towel and turned around.
“And why’d you think yer in love?” Jesse asked as he reached up to scratch under Storm’s chin.
“Love is butterflies in your stomach, right?” Genji sighed happily. “It’s your heart beating in excitement at the thought of them?”
“Two of the symptoms,” Jesse chuckled. “There’s a whole lot more. Who’s the lucky soul?”
“Tekhartha Zenyatta,” Genji sighed. “An omnic psychiatrist.”
“Ooh, reaching high, ain’t ya?” Jesse teased as he set Storm down on the counter and let him waddle-run over to Genji, demanding to be picked up.
Genji scooped Storm up and cradled him to his chest. “We have a date tomorrow,” he announced happily.
“Well, it definitely ain’t dinner,” he teased.
“Nope,” Genji agreed as he scratched under Storm’s chin. “We’re going for a nice long walk down by the lakeshore. We’re going to talk and talk and talk.”
Jesse smiled and nodded. This was good for Genji. He needed companionship; that was something he realized quickly when he met him while they were working at the bar. Genji thrived on contact with people, but his own demons had prevented him from connecting with anyone. Only reason he’d connected with Jesse at all was because Jesse needed the same sort of connections and had done his best to get the other man to open up.
Look where it had gotten him; a good friend to watch his backside when they were on shift and someone to look after Mr. Sassypants when they weren’t. He loved Storm to pieces and would happily take him off Genji’s hands if he ever had the opportunity. Genji would die first before he was separated from the beardie, but hey, the option was always there.
Genji cooed and offered Storm a treat, grinning when he happily snatched it up. “There’s a good boy!” he praised. “Come on; there’s a bed with our name on it, Stormy-wormy.”
Storm settled onto Genji’s shoulder and snuggled down as Genji headed for his room. Jesse whistled as he returned to doing his dishes. Drama queen Genji never made life boring.
Genji shifted nervously from one foot to the other as he waited for Zenyatta. His heart was in his throat and he was starting to think that Zenyatta might have stood up him. He’d never been stood up before and the thought of it happening now was terrible. Why would he play with him like that? Didn’t he know how cruel that was?
“I apologize for my tardiness,” Zenyatta called as he floated over to Genji and bowed. “I had a call I had to take.”
Genji grinned widely. “No problem!” he chirped happily. “I was starting to think you had stood me up though.”
“Oh,” Zenyatta cocked his head to the side. “I do apologize, Genji. I will call ahead next time I am running late.”
“Thanks,” Genji smiled before he swung his arms. “So, shall we?”
“Yes,” Zenyatta nodded his head and floated along. “The lakeshore is lovely this time of year, don’t you agree?”
“Yah,” Genji eyed the water nervously. “Better than up north where it turns to ice.”
“You do not like winter?” Zenyatta asked.
“It’s not winter I dislike,” Genji murmured as he picked up a rock and skipped it across the lake’s surface. “It’s ice I don’t like. It’s cold and impersonal and it doesn’t care who it kills.”
“Genji,” Zenyatta touched his hand. “Ice is an inanimate object. It cannot experience emotion.”
“It took my brother from me,” Genji whispered.
And just like that, he broke down in the middle of the trail. He sank to his knees, hiding his face as he sobbed loudly. He bowed forward, feet splaying out to either side of him as he let out choked sobs and half-screams. Zenyatta’s arms wrapped tightly around him, pulling him in against the warm chest as the floating orbs encircled them with a soothing, melodious hum.
“Ssh, Genji, it is alright,” Zenyatta crooned. “Whatever happened, it was an accident.”
“I’m the reason that he died!” Genji sobbed. “The ice killed him, but I made him go for a walk with me. We were both out on that river and we both should have died! I shouldn’t have lived while Hanzo perished under the ice!”
Zenyatta’s arms tightened around him and his stubby, metal digits dug into his shoulders and back. “Genji, listen to me,” he ordered. “It wasn’t your fault. Whatever you have told yourself over the years is not true. It is not your fault that your brother died.”
“No,” Zenyatta said firmly before he lifted Genji’s face up towards him. For an omnic with very little facial movements, he could convey his anger amazingly well. “It was not your fault. You did not plan your brother’s death. You did not do anything to cause his death.”
“I let him drown!” Genji sobbed. “I wasn’t fast enough to reach him and he drowned!”
“Genji, it was an accident,” Zenyatta stroked a thumb over his cheek. “Please, don’t argue with me.”
Genji shook his head and wrenched his face away from the omnic. He covered his face and sobbed. He wasn’t there. He wasn’t there when Genji bolted back out onto the ice and beat his fists against the surface until his hands bled. He didn’t see Hanzo clawing at the ice beneath him, desperately trying to get out. He didn’t see his brother slowly die even as his fists finally broke through the ice. He hadn’t sat there for an hour trying to breathe life back into his brother’s cold flesh.
He let out a scream of agony and clawed at his chest. He didn’t deserve to be alive while Hanzo was dead. Zenyatta grabbed his hands and crushed them between his own, holding them against his hot chest so that the broken nails couldn’t break skin. Genji let out a long shriek and tried to wrench his hands back.
“I don’t deserve to be alive!” he shrieked. “I let my brother die!”
“ENOUGH!” Zenyatta shouted.
The sheer volume of the omnics voice startled him into silence. Zenyatta vented loudly before he released Genji’s hands and cupped his face instead.
“It was not your fault,” he said sternly. “I may not know what transpired, but I know this; you could not have prevented his death. What happened to your brother was tragic and terrible and you will miss him for the rest of your life, but it was not your fault. It’s why it is called an accident.”
Genji whimpered and Zenyatta pressed their foreheads together. The orbs started spinning rapidly around them, chiming loudly until they started bouncing gently off of Genji’s shoulders. Each impact settled his nerves and filled him with a calming aura. He inhaled deeply and swallowed.
“I want to move on with my life,” he whispered. “But I don’t think I ever can.”
“You can,” Zenyatta soothed. “The first step is to forgive yourself.”
“How can I forgive myself for letting my brother die when he risked everything to save me?” he asked.
“That is your first step,” Zenyatta smiled. “Your brother would want you to live your life. He saved you, Genji. Now it’s time to start saving yourself.”
“Jesse, I’m home,” Genji called as he trotted into the house.
“How was the therapy?” Jesse asked as he rubbed his hand rather roughly over Storm’s back.
“Helpful,” he replied as he frowned. “What are you doing?”
“He’s cold,” Jesse said. “I don’t get it; he was fine before you left, but about a half hour ago he just started curling up. I put him under his heat lamp, but it didn’t seem to do anything and he did that scratching thing he does when he wants to be picked up.”
“Oh, Stormy,” Genji crooned as he picked his companion up out of Jesse’s hands. He gasped at how ice-cold he was and immediately bundled him up in his shirt. “Sweet god tits! How are you this cold, baby?”
Storm shifted slowly, curling up into Genji’s chest. Genji let out a low whine as he sat down on the couch, cradling his beloved companion to his chest. He rubbed roughly over Storm’s scales, trying to warm him up the same way Jesse had been.
“Do you want me to get some warm water going for him to lie in?” Jesse asked.
“Think that might work?” Genji asked.
“Better than nothin’,” Jesse said as he got to his feet. He headed for the kitchen and started running the water.
Genji followed, whimpering as Storm curled up more. “Please, no,” he whispered as he set his beloved pet down in the warm water. “Don’t go. Please, Storm, don’t leave me.”
Storm’s eyes opened slowly and he flared his spines. He sank down into the water and floated there, his sides rising and falling slowly. Tears started streaming down Genji’s face and he let out a long sob.
“No, no, please! I need you, Storm! Don’t die, please!”
Storm thrashed violently, opening his mouth in a long hiss. His back bowed and his claws dragged over the slick metal of the sink. Jesse swore and hauled Genji back, staring as three-hundred-fifty gram Storm suddenly started ballooning up in size. He tumbled out of the sink, kicking and flailing as his tail whipped around wildly.
“Move,” Jesse hissed as he dragged Genji away from the flailing lizard.
“But…!” Genji whined as he held his hands out to his pet as his claws dug into the floor.
Jesse held him still as Storm snapped his head around, shaking it furiously as hair started tumbling down over his shoulders. The tail popped off near the base and flopped around before dissolving into smoke. Scales drifted off until a familiar tattoo stood out on Storm’s left arm. Genji let out a loud gasp and covered his mouth as Storm struggled to get his feet under him, swaying dangerously before he collapsed against the counter.
He coughed and vomited into the sink, shoulders heaving as whatever Jesse had fed him during the day came right back up. He shook his head and covered his mouth, gagging as the spines along his jaw and behind his ears trembled. He sank down into a sitting position and kept his hand over his mouth, brown eyes closing in disgust.
“Hanzo?” Genji whimpered.
Hanzo lifted a finger and swallowed audibly. “I can still taste hornworms,” he said.
“Hanzo!” Genji shrieked before he lunged for his brother.
He didn’t care that his brother was naked. He didn’t care that his nails were still sharp and left long scratches on his shoulders as Hanzo hugged him in return. He didn’t care that his brother smelt like vomit and barely digested bugs.
“You’re alive,” Genji sobbed. “You’re alive!”
“Ssh,” Hanzo soothed as he pushed his claws into Genji’s hair. “I’m here. I’m sorry I caused you so much pain, otouto.”
“I’m the reason you died,” Genji whispered.
“No,” Hanzo bared his teeth. “You aren’t. I died because the ice gave way upstream because of a front of warm air passing through the area. You had nothing to do with it. It wasn’t your fault, little brother.”
Genji stared into Hanzo’s eyes before he let out a wet laugh and hugged him tightly. “I missed you so much!”
“Ssh,” Hanzo soothed as he hugged Genji up against his chest. “I’m here now, little brother.”
“So,” Jesse cleared his throat, “you need some clothing, sugar?”
“Sugar?” Hanzo arched an eyebrow at Jesse. “Aren’t you presumptuous, gunslinger?”
Jesse opened his mouth and paled as he took a step back. “Oh…oh fuck, you’ve seen that?” he squeaked.
“As well as a number of other embarrassing things you have done in front of the mirror, Jesse McCree,” Hanzo laughed as he slowly got to his feet. He turned a horrible shade of green before he threw up in the sink again. “And that was the cantaloupe.”
“Jesse, get that chili of yours heated up,” Genji ordered as he took his brother around the shoulders and guided him towards his room. “He needs some real food in his stomach!”
“Roger that, boss,” Jesse laughed.
Hanzo devoured everything that Jesse and Genji put in front of him. It had been six years since he had been able to eat anything like this and he was desperate to get it in his mouth. He knew Jesse was staring at him every chance he got, trying to be sneaky so Genji wouldn’t notice.
“Jesse,” Hanzo said as he cleaned his mouth, “come here.”
“You okay?” Jesse asked as he leaned over the table.
Hanzo reached up and grabbed Jesse by his lapels. He dragged him down for a kiss, loving the shocked gasp it earned him from the flirtatious cowboy. He licked at Jesse’s lips as he pulled away, eyes eagerly lapping up the stunned look.
“Uh?” Jesse blinked.
“Hanzo, do you have the hots for my roommate?” Genji demanded.
Hanzo let out a low growl and licked his lips hungrily. Jesse swallowed and reached up to run his fingers through his hair. Hanzo could smell Jesse’s arousal and made him growl louder.
“Well, shucks, Hanzo, I’m flattered,” he coughed. “But, uh, I don’t really know you and…aw hell, I want to know you! I just…it’s weird?”
“I will give you that,” Hanzo purred as he watched Jesse squirm under his gaze. “I will need to re-establish myself in the world before I can get anything done,” he mused as he rolled his fork across his lips. He smiled at his little brother and reached out to ruffle his hair. “But I suppose that can wait.”
Genji smiled at him and snuggled into his chest. Hanzo kissed over his brother’s forehead, hugging him close. It was good to be back. There were so many more opportunities available to him now that he and Genji were free of their father’s influence. The world was their oyster to play with as they desired.
He ran his nose over Genji’s temple and glanced at Jesse. Jesse gave him a weak smile and rubbed at the back of his head. Hanzo hooded his eyes and licked his lips again. Jesse almost stumble to his knees, his eyes wide before a grin spread across his face.
Oh yes, he was marrying this man.