He had been falling in and out of consciousness for several days. He woke up and his arm was gone about an inch above the elbow. Of course he said “Where’s my arm” but it wasn’t like the good Doctor Ziegler was going to gasp and go “Oh no! I left it on my desk! Let me fetch it for you!” in that slightly breathy Swiss accent of hers. He asked the question in a haze of painkillers and it came out slurred and sleepy (Angela would later tell him it came out as ‘Airs Marm’), then he gauged the three people in the room. Gabe was in a chair in a sunlit window, but then stood up and sat down on the edge of the bed near Jesse’s feet. His hands were clasped together in his lap, somehow managing to look like he was shrinking into himself despite his big frame. His brow was furrowed but his eyes were staring forward, looking at nothing in particular, but puzzling, turning words over in his head while calculating different timeframes of possible futures for Jesse. Several feet behind him was Angela, clasping her tablet tight to her chest and her eyes flicking back to the heart rate and EKG monitors next to his bed, occasionally glancing over her shoulder back at Jack, who had posted himself near the door, arms folded, looking on. Jesse wondered if he was here out of concern for him or for Gabe’s sake. Gabe motioned to a glass of water on the table next to Jesse’s bed, and then Jesse realized how dry his mouth was, grabbed it and gulped it down.
“Where’s my arm?” Jesse said again, clearer this time. God, the question sounded really dumb out loud. He half knew the answer when he asked it again. He could hear his own heart rate picking up in his ears and in the beeps of the monitor as he tried to remember what had happened. An operation in the rockies gone really messy. Deadlock involved. Civilians involved. Stolen Omnic tech involved. Gabe had been telling him to get out, giving him some orders to leave. He wasn’t sure if Gabe had any intention of getting out of there alive. Then there was a blast, bright pink, almost pretty, and he had tackled Gabe and it caught him and felt a searing ripping pain and from there things got really spotty. He remembered Gabe shouting more, that whirring roar of Overwatch air rescue vehicles. “Telluride,” he said, looking at Gabe, “Is Telluride—?”
“The mission was a success,” said Gabe.
“The civs—” McCree started.
“Also fine,” said Gabe, “Some injuries—no fatalities. The weapons are in Overwatch custody. You got the worst of it, pullin’ shit like that.” Gabe paused, and McCree adjusted himself against the headboard of his hospital bed, half-expecting to be chewed out for pulling that reckless shit and disobeying direct orders and all that stuff but Gabe just rubbed his forehead, itched at his hat a little, and said, “You did good, cowboy.”
Jesse’s eyebrows raised and he glanced over at Jack near the doorway, who gave a single nod and a thumbs-up. Jesse could hear the beeps of his heart monitor slow with his own relief. McCree glanced at the stub of his left arm. “Probably could have done better,” he said. Half a bitter chuckle escaped Gabe. “Saved your life, though,” McCree added.
“By disobeying a direct order,” said Gabe, folding his arms.
“Still saved it,” said Jesse.
“Don’t make me kick your ass, McCree,” said Gabe. Both Jack and Jesse snickered.
“Is that why you’re here?” said McCree, glancing up at Jack, “Do I get a medal or something?”
“Medal or something’s a good term for it,” said Jack, stepping forward, “I’ve gotten word that one of the civs you saved was some senator’s kid. Senator did some digging or had some digging done, and found out about you and your…let’s call it unique situation. He’s willing to bust Overwatch’s ass to see you get a purple heart and comfy retirement for your, he quotes, ‘heroism.’”
“Heroism,” McCree repeated running his one remaining hand through his hair. He glanced over at Angela and pointed at Gabe. “And he wants to kick my ass. A one-armed hero.”
Angela forced a smile and Jack went on. “So I guess the choice is yours, Jesse,” said Jack, “For what it’s worth you don’t necessarily have the life imprisonment sentence hanging over your head anymore.”
“Huh,” McCree sank into his pillow slightly, “Leaving Overwatch, huh?”
“Well not that he really has to bust our balls to get you out of your situation,” said Jack, “I mean, it was outlined in your contract that one of the things freeing you from your commission would be death or grievous injury. Thought you’d like the ‘hero’ part, though.”
“Didn’t think much counted as ‘grievous’ with Doctor Zieglerstein here,” said McCree.
“I will say that was an archaic element of your contract,” said Angela, stepping over and checking his IVs.
“Aw, are you just saying that ‘cause you’d miss me?” said Jesse. Angela rolled her eyes. McCree glanced up at the IV’s that she was tweaking slightly. He recognized the label and the little icons the Overwatch medical staff used for easy organization. Painkillers. Good ones. He figured he was taking this whole “lost an arm” thing better than he ought to be.
“You don’t have to decide right now,” said Jack, “Take a day or two to think about it—”
“I’m staying,” said McCree, glancing back from his IV stand.
“Jesse, seriously, you don’t have to—” Jack started.
“It was Deadlock back in Colorado,” said McCree, “You need me.”
“We can handle Deadlock,” said Jack.
“You can handle Deadlock ‘cause you got me,” said Jesse, “We don’t—” Jesse cleared his throat, “They don’t work that far north. They got something that’s making them bolder.”
“Maybe it was the tech,” said Gabe.
“Maybe it’s whoever was hooking them up with the tech to begin with,” said Jesse. He moved to fold his arms, then realized how awkward that was with just one arm and ended up just tucking his remaining arm against himself and squaring up his shoulders and saying, “I’m staying.”
“All right then. If you feel that strongly about it,” said Jack.
“Feeling’s got nothing to do with it,” said Jesse, giving Gabe a nudge with his foot, “Someone’s gotta watch Reyes’ back.”
“I can handle myself,” said Gabe.
“I’ve got an arm stub and a living, breathing, CO at the foot of my bed that says otherwise,” said McCree, grinning.
Jack snickered and Gabe sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “McCree, don’t think you’ll be the first person I beat the shit out of in a hospital bed.”
“Aw come on, you know you love me,” said McCree, giving Gabe another nudge with his foot.
Gabe just half chuckled and half scoffed as he stood up from McCree’s bed. “If you shut up about it, I’ll buy you a drink when the Doc says you’re good for it.”
“Roger wilco, capitan,” McCree said with a small salute, “When’s the soonest I can get out of here?”
“Easy, kid,” said Gabe, “The doc will say when you’re ready to go back out in the field.” He glanced over at Doctor Ziegler, “Ange, don’t hesitate to swat him upside the head if he gives you any trouble,” He picked up the duffel he had been keeping near his chair.
“I will keep that in mind,” said Angela, taking the stylus out of her messy bun and tapping at her tablet with it.
“Aw, leaving me already?” said McCree as both Jack and Gabe headed for the door.
“Still work to be done,” said Jack, “Plus Ana will tear me a new one if I don’t let her know how you’re doing.”
“Don’t worry, I’m sure there’s plenty of crises to go around,” said Gabe. He paused, “Oh. Before I forget,” he rifled through his duffle bag and took out a large, brown cowboy hat that now had a couple of new notches in the brim, as well as some smoke stains. “Civ saved this for you. Told me to make sure you get it.” He tossed the hat and it landed on Jesse’s bed. Jesse reached for it and grabbed it so fast that IV’s taped to his arm ached a little. He put it on. Admittedly he felt stupid for wearing the hat at the same time as a hospital gown, but just as well, it was a comfort. “Thanks,” he said, looking up at Gabe.
Jack had already gone out the door, but Gabe hung by with one hand on the door frame. “Sure, kid,” he said, before slipping away.
McCree attempted to negotiate between the pillows of his hospital bed and his cowboy hat with one hand. “You think he meant that part?”
“What part?” said Angela, adjusting his bed so he could sit up more.
“That ‘You wouldn’t be the first person i beat up in a hospital bed,’ bit,” said McCree, imitating Gabe’s gruffer, deeper voice.
“Oh he’s definitely done that,” said Mercy, not even glancing up from her tablet.
Jesse blinked several times. “Wait—seriously?”
“Mm-hmm,” said Angela continuing to write down notes, “He just left out the part where he was also hospitalized at the time.”
Jesse snorted.”Okay that sounds like Gabe.” His smile faded as he glanced down at his stub of an arm. “…It’s not going to be organic, is it?”
She finally glanced up from her tablet.
“The arm,” said Jesse, “I heard you regrew one once.”
“Twice, but those were very different cases,” said Angela, sitting down in the chair Gabe once sat in, “But if we want to get you out there and fighting as fast as you want to be, a prosthetic is the best option. It takes weeks to build up limbs from DNA, and even then it’s highly likely that even though the arm is… for all intents and purposes, your organic arm, your body can still reject it. And then there’s the weeks of nervous system re-training,” she shook her head, “Trust me, at this stage, you want a prosthetic.”
“I trust you,” Jesse said. He paused a long time. “I’m left handed, y’know,” Jesse’s voice got a bit quieter, “I mean…function-wise, I’m technically anti—amble—”
“Ambidextrous?” suggested Mercy.
McCree snapped a finger and pointed at her in confirmation, then glanced at his right hand, “See, the left one would be faster doing that.”
“Seemed fast enough to me,” said Mercy.
“Well, yeah, in a conversation. Gunfight’s a different matter,” said McCree.
Mercy’s lips thinned and she looked thoughtful for a few moments. “Well… It could take a while to get the prosthetic up to the same speed that your left hand previously was, and it’s also likely that you’ll simply…. default to the right hand.”
Jesse frowned and sank into his pillow, pulling down the brim of his hat so his eyes were obscured.
“But Jesse,” Angela spoke, and Jesse tilted up the brim of his hat with his thumb to look at her, “You’ve come into this infirmary…well…I’ve lost count of how many times you’ve come into this infirmary, but if all the times I’ve treated you are anything to go by, it’s that you’re not in the habit of letting things stop you. Slow you down, yes, hurt you, yes, heavily inconvenience you, yes, exhaust and anger you, yes, but never stop you.”
“Well you’re not in the habit of letting things stop me either doc,” said Jesse with a slight smile, “All that ‘Wonders of Modern Medicine’ business.”
“I suppose we’ll just continue doing our best then,” said Mercy, smiling a bit as well.
“Yeah,” Jesse said with a a slight nod. He glanced down at his arm again. “Still sucks though.”
“I agree, it does… suck,” said Mercy.
“I’ve been to Yuma Prison before. Twice. Escaped twice too.” McCree mouthed along with the movie and grabbed a handful of potato chips he had gotten one of the nurses to grab him from the vending machine. Even eating chips was an inconvenience now, his wrist dumbly pushing the bag down his bed and then he’d have to pause the movie to make sure he didn’t get chip crumbs in the bed and then readjust his seating to accommodate the chips and he hated that at this point that it was even difficult being lazy.
“Jesse,” Angela’s voice came from the door.
“Jeez!” McCree flinched hard and knocked his bag of chips off the bed, sending potato chips scattering across the floor. “Gotdamn—don’t sneak up on me like that!”
“What happened to those Blackwatch-honed instincts?” said Angela as a custodial drone zipped past her ankles and started vacuuming up the fallen chips.
Jesse sighed and rolled his eyes, “I thought you said I needed a few more days to rest.”
“I also said you should look at the catalogue to decide which model you’d like the most,” said Angela, “Have you made a decision?”
“Still thinking about it,” said Jesse.
Angela glanced at the small holo-tablet next to Jesse’s hospital bed. It’s position seemed unchanged from when she left it there the previous day. “Have you even opened the catalogue?” she said, folding her arms.
“Sure,” said Jesse, not looking at her and watching the movie.
“Jesse,” said Angela.
“I’ll get to it,” said Jesse.
“You’re depressed,” Angela said with that clinical certainty of hers.
Jesse paused the movie. “Excuse me?”
“You’re depressed,” Angela said again.
“Am not,” said Jesse, hitting play again.
“How many times have you rewatched this movie today?” said Angela, stepping over to his bed.
“This is the first time,” said Jesse, not looking at her.
“For a one leg rancher…he’s a tough son of a bitch,” a voice from the hospital TV slipped into the gap in their conversation.
“Jesse,” there was more of a twinge of pity in Angela’s voice than McCree liked.
“Fine,” he said, his voice a bit stiff, “Fourth. It’s the fourth time.”
“You done it, Pa. You done it. You got him on the train. Pa.” Angela glanced over at the screen and realized she had come in during an emotionally intense part of the movie.
“I can come back when it’s over—” Angela started but the music swelled and the credits started rolling. Jesse turned the tv off and looked sullen. “Do you need to talk about it?” said Angela.
“Well what do you even talk about?” said Jesse, “It was an arm! You don’t really consciously think ‘Oh I sure do love having an arm’ when you have it, it’s just… it’s there, and now it’s not.” He rubbed his forehead, but then a bitter grin crossed his face, “I will say I was pretty attached to it.”
Angela’s face was still soft with concern until his words hit her and she noticed the shit-eating grin on his face, and then her mouth hung open, her brow furrowed, she made a wringing motion with her hands before covering her face with one. “Mein gott, Jesse, how long have you been waiting to say that?”
“I came up with it three hours ago,” said Jesse, looking far more satisfied than he should be and resting his one hand behind his head and leaning back in his bed.
“Well I suppose making you do what you should have been doing all along is fitting punishment,” said Angela, picking up the holo-tablet next to Jesse’s bed.
“Aw, come on, Doc,” Jesse sighed.
“Oh please it’s not as terrible as you think,” said Angela. She brought up the first projection of a prosthetic arm on the holo-tablet and rotated it for him. “There, this one is the most popular prosthetic mod—”
“Nah,” said Jesse.
“What’s wrong with it?” said Angela.
“It’s white. Like way too white. I’m gonna ruin that thing. It’ll get all scuffed and stained.”
“Very well,” Angela made a sweeping motion with her hand and the prosthetic changed to a black one. “Carbon fiber. You should have a hard time scratching this one.”
Jesse shook his head. “I don’t like the plastic-y look.”
“You can get one model with removable plating,” suggested Angela, “Get different exterior plates for different occasions.”
“What, like is there a ‘black tie’ model?” said Jesse. Angela swiped to a gold-plated prosthetic model projection and Jesse said, “Jesus.” He shook his head. “Nah, i wasn’t in the habit of removing large sections of my arm before, I have no intention of starting that.”
Angela moved to the next one. Jesse didn’t like that one. Or the next one. Or the next one. They scrolled through about 15 different prosthetic models before they got to a relatively plain steel model. “I like that one,” said McCree, “Not too big on the glowy blue bits. Can we change those?”
“No, those are what connect the arm to your nervous system,” said Mercy.
“Hm,” McCree rubbed his chin thoughtfully, “You mentioned something about plating earlier? Can I get plating on it? Permanent plating?”
“Yes,” Angela said, smiling slightly.
“Custom plating?” McCree questioned further.
“Of cour—” Angela started and then noticed the face McCree was making and stopped herself, “No,” she said, “No, absolutely not.”
“Aw come on, you don’t even know what I’d get.”
“I know exactly what you’d get and no, I’m not letting you match your arm plating to that terrible belt buckle.”
McCree scoffed and laughed a little, “You know you love it.”
“I didn’t think it was physically possible for something that tacky to exist in this world,” said Angela.
“At least let me get something badass,” said McCree.
Angela sighed and opened up a projection of numerous custom plates for the prosthesis.
“That one,” said McCree.
“Are you sure—-” Angela started.
“Yes,” said McCree.
“You haven’t even seen all the other plating designs yet,” said Angela.
“Don’t need to,” said McCree, “I want that one.”
“Look, how about I give you another day to think about it, browse some more designs?” said Angela.
“Nah, I gotta get back out there. I like that one,” said McCree.
Angela sighed but couldn’t help smiling a little. “Okay, but when you change your mind six months from now, feel free to come to me to change the plating.”
“You know I’m going to keep that plating forever now that you’ve said that, right?” said McCree, he pushed the holo-tablet toward her, “I’ve taken up too much of your time anyway. We’ll stick with that one. You get back to your other patients.”
“It’s no trouble, really,” said Angela, “I’m on my lunch hour.”
“On your lu—” McCree started and then slapped his forehead, “Aw come on, Doc! You don’t have to waste your lunch hour on me!”
“I don’t mind,” said Angela, smiling.
“Seriously, Doc, go eat or something,” said McCree muttered. He paused, “Y’know what—-when Gabe buys me that drink, I’ll make him buy you one, too.”
“You don’t have to do that,” said Mercy, laughing a little.
“Hey he left you with me, he owes you,” said McCree, “Or maybe he’ll see the new arm as license to kick my ass like he keeps saying. I dunno. Hell, I’ll buy you one. You’re getting drinks with us though.”
“I’ll see if I can fit it in my schedule,” she said.
“Yeah. But seriously, Doc, go take your break,” said McCree.
“I will,” said Angela, glancing over at the projection of the prosthesis and the plating on the holo-tablet, she made a pressing together motion with her fingers to combine the prosthesis and the plating, showing a projection of the hypothetical prosthetic arm. She glanced back at Jesse, “Are you sure?”
“Yeah,” said Jesse, looking at the projection, “Yeah I think I can get used to something like that.”
Angela still thought the skull was tacky. Not as tacky as ‘BAMF’ engraved into the plating would have been, but still pretty tacky. Still, she had to admit it worked wth McCree’s own sense of style. Gabe loved it though, even if he didn’t outright say it. She sipped at her Saint Moritz as Gabe and Jesse laughed and talked over each other, their conversation falling in and out of Spanish. All the days of nerve and sensitivity calibration and all the tweaking of the prosthetic had paid off. It still wasn’t as fast as his original left arm had been, she wondered if it ever would be, but it took a great deal of weight off her shoulders to see Jesse smiling again, really smiling, not just that forced bitter grin from his hospital bed. Throughout the course of the night Jesse had received several arm-wrestling challenges to ‘test’ out the new prosthetic and Angela said it was fine, but honestly couldn’t help chewing on her thumbnail nervously as Jesse would slam his elbow down on the table then manage to pin each of his challenger’s arms.
“Hey!” McCree swung an arm around her, nearly causing her to spill her drink and raised his glass of whiskey high, “To Doc Ziegler!” he announced it to the whole bar, which prompted some scattered response from half-drunk people who had no idea who they were and some bitter arm-wrestling losers.
“Jesse, you really don’t have to—” said Angela.
“You did good, Doc,” said Gabe, lifting his glass to her.
“Thank you,” said Angela, tucking some of her hair back, “Just doing my job, really.”
“I don’t see why we don’t do this more often,” said Jesse, hopping up on a bar stool, “We should bring Jack next time. He could stand to loosen up a bit. If we bring Ana maybe she could drag his ass here. Or Reinhardt! Hell, we could bring that Shimada kid, too. I think he’s taken a shine to you, Doc.” Angela’s drink caught in her throat and she swallowed hard and coughed a little, flushing hard. “Or maybe he’s just shiny,” McCree said, sipping his drink, “Can he drink with his whole…” Jesse gestured up and down at his body, “…situation?”
“Yes,” said Mercy, “But we usually unload all of the shuriken out of his arm before he does so.”
McCree snorted and glanced over at Gabe, “What do you think, boss? You’d want to do this again, right?”
“I’m not buying next time,” said Gabe, taking a drink.
“Didn’t hear a ‘No,’” said McCree and Gabe did that half-scoff half-chuckle of his.
“Tell you what, kid,” said Gabe, “You manage to get Jack Morrison to go along with this, and maybe we’ll—”
A buzzing suddenly came from Gabe’s pocket and he pulled out his phone. “Well, good thing you got cleared for field duty, kid,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck, “We’re needed in Cape Town in the next 9 hours.”
“Aw,” McCree leaned against the bar.
“Hey, you were the one who wanted to get back in the field as soon as possible,” said Gabe, finishing his drink, “Jack’s sending a car to take us to the Orca.”
“I know, I know,” said McCree. He glanced over at Angela, “You gonna get back okay?”
“I’ll manage,” said Angela, “Go, get ready. Like you always say, ‘Justice isn’t—-Justice won’t—- um….”
“Justice ain’t gonna dispense itself?” Jesse suggested.
Angela snapped a finger and pointed at him in confirmation, and he tipped his hat at her with his new prosthetic. “You take care, Doc.”
“You too,” said Angela.