McCree found the tattered novel on one of his missions. The cover torn and muddy, but all the pages still mostly intact. He handled it with care, gently wiping the dirt off with his flesh hand. He brushed the pads of his fingers along the plain manilla cover, the narrow spine, and the faded name– as if trying to memorize the feel of it. The Lone Star Ranger. He chuckled quietly, struck by the non-coincidence and lifted an incredulous gaze to the wide blue sky above him. Real cheeky. Wrapping the damp book in his serape, he returned his attention to the objective.
It was weeks before he got a chance to examine the book again. He fetched it from where he had left it on his shelf, swaddled lovingly in one of his best shirts, and nestled into an isolated corner of the common room. He opened the book with slow hands, the pitter-patter of his pulse pounding in the tips of his fingers. He was excited, thrilled, in a way he hadn’t been in years. The pages were creased with water damage, yellowed with aged, the small black lettering faded to a pale gray. Just barely legible. He buried his face in the pages, marveling at the dry feeling of the paper beneath his skin and the heady, musty scent of the pages.
“Jesse!” McCree jumped as Fareeha threw herself down on the couch next to him and wrapped a well-muscled arm aggressively around his shoulders. Instinctively, McCree shoved the book with as much care as he could muster between the cushions, wincing when he felt the stiff pages creak in protest.
“Jesse,” Fareeha said again. McCree half expected her to ask what he had been doing, his heart beating wildly as if he’d been caught in a lie. McCree had no reason to be so skittish; after all, he hadn’t done anything wrong, but guilt still tore at his gut.
Swallowing thickly he tried to smile at Fareeha, “Wh–” He didn’t get any further, since Fareeha proceeded to trap him in a merciless headlock, flick his hat off his head, and give him such a violent noogie that he saw stars. She barked something about beating his deadlift record (again) and released him with a loud slap on the shoulder and a broad grin.
Then it was weeks of hiding the novel from Hanzo, which proved nearly impossible. Hanzo was meticulous about maintaining their quarters– his constant habit of arranging, rearranging, and re-rearranging to impulsively clean meant McCree kept needing to find new hiding places for his precious cargo. He nearly had a heart attack when Hanzo came across the soft shirt the book was wrapped in and tried to launder it. He resigned himself to hiding it beneath his side of the mattress, his body laying stiff in bed to keep from rolling over and crushing it.
Hanzo noticed because he’s an observant man, but he’s an observant man who knows Jesse McCree well enough to know when to push and when to let McCree come to him. This was a situation that warranted the latter. So, Hanzo said nothing directly– he dropped subtle hints about knowing that McCree was hiding something from him. He trusted McCree and he knew McCree trusted him– Hanzo told himself not to worry, that McCree would come to him of his own accord soon enough.
It comes while they’re laying in bed, McCree’s head pillowed on Hanzo’s chest while the archer threads gentle, loving fingers through his hair. It comes in the soft way McCree speaks, in the rumble of his voice that Hanzo more feels than hears, “’M a guilty man.”
“Explain.” Hanzo says, his fingers soft against the short hairs at McCree’s nape.
McCree sighs out his next words, his breath ghosting warm against Hanzo’s bare chest, “D'ya miss it? Hanamura? The clan?”
Hanzo’s hands still, “Do you miss…New Mexico?“ He doesn’t say Deadlock, but the silence that hangs between them seems to say it. Deadlock: the same beasts that branded McCree’s arm, then took the brand back and the arm with it. McCree doesn’t like talking about his past, though few seem to in their day and age, so Hanzo has only gathered bits and pieces– from what he can tell, it’s nothing good.
McCree inhales painfully, “Is it bad that….I do?”
Hanzo’s heart aches something awful, a twinge of pain blooming against his ribs. He hates hearing McCree’s suffering– wants to snatch it all away and store it with his own hurt so McCree won’t wilt under it’s weight. Hanzo clears his throat and shakes his head, “No, it is not.”
He feels McCree’s eyes flutter closed, feels his lips move again his skin, “I miss….the sun-baked earth ‘neath my boots. Th-the blue, cloudless skies. I miss the– the cries of hawks as they swoop in on them….them lil’ unsuspectin’ bunny rabbits!” McCree laughs and sniffles, Hanzo’s chest feels wet. “Hell, I even miss the Deadlock boys. Those goddamn, lowlife bastards that gave m-my skinny, punk ass a p-place t’ belong….”
McCree pushes himself up on his palms till he’s hovering over Hanzo. His eyes are wet and rimmed red: desperate, like his tone, “Now, darlin’, I’m not sayin’ I feel like I don’t belong here. And this ain’t t’ say that I’m ungrateful for the chance I was given. ’M just….’m just….” Jesse searches for words, his arms trembling in frustration.
Hanzo sits up and cups McCree’s face in his hands, “I miss it.” McCree blinks, causing tears to roll out of his dewy eyes. “I miss Hanamura. And the clan. It was my home. They were my home. So yes, I miss it. But I do not long for it. I do not wish to return to who I was in the past and neither do you– presently, we are the best versions of ourselves that we have ever been. Jesse, you are not guilty of anything. You are not an ungrateful person, or a bad person, for missing your home.“
McCree smiles, woeful and melancholy, before he turns his face to kiss Hanzo’s palm, “Yer real good with words when ya wanna be, ain'tcha?“
Hanzo smiles back, “It is easy to speak from the heart.” McCree mutters ‘cheesy’ under his breath and leans forward to kiss Hanzo sweetly. The chaste kisses become wetter, hotter, till Hanzo is on his back once more and McCree is bearing down on him. They part slowly, lips stinging from the lingering warmth, their pulses fluttering like butterfly wings.
“Han, I….” McCree breathes in deeply. “I have somethin’ I– somethin’ that I’d really like t’ share with ya if, if yer up for it.” McCree’s hesitance makes Hanzo curious and he nods once in affirmation, watching as his cowman ducks around the side of their bed and reaches under the mattress.
He draws out the bundle with an unprecedented gentleness, peaking Hanzo’s curiosity till the archer sits cross-legged on the bed and peers intently at McCree’s prize. The gunslinger doesn’t speak as he carefully exposes the book to view. Hanzo tilts his head, speaks the title out softly between them. The Lone Star Ranger.
“Found it on a mission.” McCree says through his smile. “It’s a western.” Hanzo’s eyes dart up to catch McCree’s smile and studies the delicate way in which he handles the novel; he knows immediately that McCree has chosen to share something precious. His heart stutters a happy rhythm, emotions swellins at the idea that McCree has trusted him with something so sensitive.
“It reminds you of home?” Hanzo inquired and McCree grinned his affirmation. “Then….will you read it to me?”
McCree’s delight shows in the way his eyes shine, happiness makes him look and sound as giddy as a child, “Ya really wanna hear it?!” Hanzo nods and creases appear in the corners of McCree’s eyes as he grins wider than Hanzo has ever seen. “Well, shucks, darlin’….!”
They settle in shoulder to shoulder, their pillows hunched against their lower backs, as McCree begins in a low voice as rich as molasses. Hanzo listens silently, his eyes fixated on McCree’s face as he enthusiastically begins the tale of Buck Duane. Hanzo’s heart thuds painfully against his ribs once more, but it is a pain he relishes– a sweet ache of happiness.