So here's the thing. I'm French, and I don't know a lot about America save for the states I've visited (Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Colorado). So when I found out AFTER writing this story that Bloomington, Indiana is AN ACTUAL CITY and it's big and such I was disappointed in myself. So pretend that it's like a rural town that shares the name I'm talking about here. Like Paris in Texas and Paris in France, but in the same /

I feel really fucking dumb BUT PLEASE don't let my lack of culture prevent you from enjoying the story.

- Sarah


Broken heart, shattered ties
Part II of (Don't) let go

Jack Morrison often looks back on his youth as the most peaceful days of his life. He notices, not without amusement and faint bitterness, that his childhood was also the time he was the less in contact with other people. Such was life in Bloomington: no school, no public gardens, no way to meet other kids (not that there were a lot of other young people, anyways). And on top of that, he was an only child. He remembers asking his mother various times for a brother or a sister, desperate for company; and in hindsight, he understands why those discussions always left the kind farmer with misty eyes and a distant gaze. It's not like at the time, he could have known what the words "unwed mother" or "teen mom" meant, after all.

He doesn't like to think about his mother much. Not that he resents her, on the contrary: even after fifty-five years, Emma Morrison is still the strongest person he's ever known. Stronger than him, stronger than Gabriel Reyes, stronger than Ana Amari. A mother at only eighteen, she had raised him with all the love and kindness her little body held. She was the one who had taught Jack about respecting oneself and the others, about fighting for what was right, about not staying silent in front of injustice. Her son would come to appreciate her parenting skills years later, but even as a child, Jack knew his mom was someone special.

He knew about her strength, too. Physical, of course: working in a farm on her own meant she had to accomplish tedious tasks. Jack started helping as much as he could as soon as he turned six; but there's only so much a child's body can withstand. Emma was always the one forbidding Jack to push his limits too far and making sure that he didn't get hurt or worked himself to exhaustion.

But when Jack thinks about her mom, he doesn't only see her as a pair of strong arms and a warm heart. He also finds her the bravest person he knows.
As a sensitive child, he knew how words could hurt, how carefully chosen remarks could ruin someone. And when his mom took him to church on Sundays, or on the market on Wednesdays, he saw the way the townspeople looked at her. He especially remembers about how the old lady who sold candy stopped smiling at them when Emma told her they weren't a pair of siblings. In spite of her mother's eternal smile, he knew just how much the way Bloomington's citizens interacted with her was wrong and even hurtful.

But to Emma, it didn't seem to be important. Even when she was outright insulted – Jack learnt his first swear words from the mouth of the mayor himself -, she'd never answer, and when they'd get back home she'd act as if nothing had happen. She'd play in the garden with Jack, or bake him his favourite apple pie.
Around the time Jack turned ten, he took it upon himself to insult the townspeople back, taking delight in the disgust that twisted their features. But his mother forbade him to do so, explaining that although she was touched and even moved that he'd be willing to step down to their detractors' level, she'd rather see him keep his head high and let the jeers fly by.

The day Emma Morrison passed away, something shattered inside of Jack. He couldn't tell what it was, but he knew he wasn't the same person anymore and doubted he'd ever be.
He was fifteen when it happened. His mother had to go buy something in town, a piece to repair their tractor. It was nothing out of the ordinary, a simple errand like she'd done countless times before. She wouldn't be gone for more than an hour, two at worst.
But she had never come back. She had left around 2pm, and Jack had started to get worried when the living room's clock had rung 5pm. He had called her, multiple times, only to hear a recording of hers asking the caller to leave a message.
At 7:38pm, he had heard a car parking in the driveway. Jack had immediately known it wasn't his mother; the engine sounded different. The teen had rushed outside, his stomach twisting when he had seen the sheriff's car. The man had stepped outside of the vehicle, a sombre look on his wrinkled face. He hadn't even needed to talk; Jack knew what it meant when the sheriff came to people's house as they were expecting someone.

That night, he had cried until passing out from exhaustion. The next day had been even worse, as he had to go to the police station to identify the corpse they presented him. His mother, no doubt was possible, no matter how much Jack prayed that it wasn't actually her. But the yellow sundress covered in splatters of blood, the blonde hair that fell around her face like a halo, the strong yet small frame; it was impossible for the corpse in front of him to be anyone else than Emma Morrison. And although some parts of her body were severely damaged, including her jaw, the thing that pushed Jack to the edge and prompted him to vomit on the police officer's pristine shoes was his mother's stare. Her eyes, usually sparkling with life and hope, were reduced to two dull and motionless orbs, staring back hopelessly as Jack yelled at her to come back.

The burial was as minimalistic as it could. The priest had reluctantly proposed to bury her properly, but Jack had refused. When Emma was alive, the priest would only look at her with contempt, and Jack didn't want his mother's last sleep to be disturbed by such a hateful glance. He had buried her himself; not in the town cemetery, but in their backyard, underneath her favourite tree. Jack hadn't read any passage of the Bible or done anything religious after covering her body with earth; instead, he had chosen to sing. He didn't know how to play any instrument, so he had settled to simply use his voice, singing until his throat got sore. Emma's favourite songs, his favourite songs, the songs they'd sing together when happy, when in the car, when Emma would console him, when Emma would reassure him after a nightmare.

Jack Morrison never sang again after that May evening. It was as if his voice had been buried with his mother.

He took care of the farm until he turned eighteen. He didn't really know how to do anything else, anyways; his mother had taught him to read and to write, but not much more. So he worked on the farm, living on his own and avoiding the townspeople as much as possible. He knew his mother had died in a car accident, but in a way, he held all of the Bloomington population responsible. It was stupid and insane, he knew it; but the darkest part of him couldn't bring itself to trust them. And more than anything, the way they looked at him made him nauseous. Their words of compassion and understanding meant nothing to Jack, not after the fourteen years-nightmare they had put his mother in.

He left when the war against the Omnics broke out. If there was one thing Emma Morrison had passed on her son, it was her acute sense of justice. As soon as he heard the news on the old radio, Jack had packed his bag and ran to the nearest train station, leaving everything behind. The only thing he had done aside of locking the door had been to cut some flowers from the garden and to put them on his mother's grave. He didn't care if the townspeople wondered about his disappearance, or if they stole the corn that was growing in the fields surrounding his house. With every minute passing, innocents were dying en masse, and it was a thought he couldn't bear.

Thinking back about his quick decision, Jack often wonders what the hell got into him. Of course, his mother had taught him to protect those weaker than him, but she never told him to quit everything and enlist in the army. But at the time, with his idealistic eighteen years old mind, it had seemed like the right thing to do- like there wasn't even a choice. He believed there was something beyond Bloomington, that the world wasn't full of mean spirited, two-faced, bitter people. That people like his mother lived beyond the endless fields, people worth protecting.

His first few days in the base were tough. There was so many people, from all over the country and even beyond; the barracks held more diversity than Jack had ever imagined possible. He mostly kept to himself, though, unable to make acquaintances. He had no idea how to even start a conversation, and doubted that anyone would be interested in talking to a little farmer from a remote countryside anyways. While the others talked or kept themselves busy at the end of the day, Jack studied everything that was available about Omnics. He figured that if he were to take on powerful enemies, he might as well have an idea exactly what he was up against.

His small routine was broken on the fifteenth day after his first mission, when he was called up by higher-ups. Something about noticing particular dispositions in him during the medical check-ups, resulting in a proposal to join a program called "Soldier Enhancement Program". Jack hesitated, worried about what they thought of enhancing and how it could end, but he accepted.

(He still doesn't know what pushed him to do that. Maybe it was the curiosity, or maybe back then he simply didn't really care what happened to him.)

The next two months are a blur, a fragmented part of his memory he still can't put together. There's so many tests run on him, so many injections and shots, so much training, that it all mixes in his head and he can't tell what happened when.
What Jack does remember, clear as day, is meeting Gabriel Reyes. They met for the first time a day before their first mission together, and something instantly clicked between them. Jack was admiring of the man who was two years older than him; although he was ranked higher than him and had more experience in combat, he didn't think of Jack as anything but his equal. They formed an odd friendship, one forged in the fire of the battlefield and the time spent taking care of each other afterwards, both physically and morally.

Jack was so happy to have finally found someone who cared about him and whom he cared about, that he didn't mind that Gabriel was his only friend. Gabe – he hated when Jack called him that, but after a while didn't bother to complain anymore – was a pretty lonely person himself, as although everyone admired him as a leader, a few people were able to endure his anger outbursts. Jack didn't mind them; used to others' nastiness, one or two insults or shouting matches didn't matter much to him.

They kissed for the first time after the last battle in the Omnic war. When he saw the Omnics raise a torn white flag, Jack started crying. Tears of relief fell on his soot-covered cheeks, and he wonkily ran to Gabriel, throwing himself into his commander's arms.
They were on a battlefield, both drenched in blood and motor oil, surrounded by the rest of their team, but they didn't care. Their lips met before they realized it, and they kissed until they had to part lest they pass out from the lack of oxygen. The pair didn't let go of one another until a soldier came up to Gabriel and handed him a phone, with the UN on the line.

Jack wished time had stopped just afterwards. When they were both in Gabriel's room, naked on his bed and enjoying the other's warmth, without a care in the world. Their minds were oblivious to what happened outside; they had done their job and won the war, and deserved some rest.

That evening is still one of Jack's more treasured memories. It's the night he lost his virginity to the man that he loved the most. Gabriel took care not to hurt him, often checking if Jack was enjoying himself. The commander covered his pale body in kisses and love bites, not leaving a single patch of skin unexplored. For the first time in his life, Jack felt loved, and even adored, by someone else than his mother.
But even more than their passionate lovemaking, it's the afterwards that stays etched in Jack's memory. Simply falling asleep in Gabe's arms, feeling protected, loved and cared for.

It all went downhill from there. Of course it did; if Jack's learnt something since his mother's death, it's that the universe never lets him in peace for long. And when he's given something, it's only for it to be taken away sooner or later.

For some reason, the UN decided to appoint make him Overwatch's Strike Commander. Gabriel said he was happy about it, that he deserved it; but his words sounded so false and oozing with thinly veiled spite that it made Jack sick to hear them.
Ana Amari became his second in command. Jack had heard of her before – who hadn't? - but never actually met her, and he was glad he finally got to. It turned out Ana was as nice as she was brave, although she didn't mind bringing out a more caustic part or her personality sometimes. She helped Jack get accustomed to his new position, and to deal with the rift he felt it created between him and Gabriel. Even to this day, Jack's unsure he would have been able to withstand the pressure of being in charge of Overwatch without her.

Gabriel became the head of Blackwatch, and although it sounded like a fancy title, Jack knew it was far from being an enviable position. While the leader of Overwatch got to be popular with the public, and praised by pretty much everyone as a hero, nobody should ever know there was even a "Blackwatch". A division specialized in taking care of the dirtiest missions, the one Overwatch deemed too dangerous for its members.

Jack and Gabriel spent less and less time together, both absorbed by their obligations. But what little time they got to spend together, they made the most of, often choosing to retreat in one of their rooms and to press their naked bodies together without a word. They didn't always make love; sometimes, feeling the other's skin against theirs and getting lost in their intimacy and their love was enough.

On a particular night, Jack was abruptly woken up by loud shouting. He didn't recognize the voice, which had a strong southern accent, but it didn't matter; whoever thought midnight was an appropriate time to scream their lungs out was in for a very nice surprise. Jack didn't even bother to put his coat on and ran in the hallway, where an unusual sight greeted him. Gabriel, looking very tired and annoyed, was literally dragging someone behind him. A young man, with his hands cuffed, who was producing an impressive number of creative insults without stopping to take a breath. Deciding not to question anything, Jack went back to his room.

He saw the young man a week later, and barely recognized him. His skin wasn't dotted with bruises anymore, and his almost skinny body seemed to have put on some weight. His ridiculous cowboy clothes had been replaced by a Blackwatch recruit uniform. Jack decided to greet him properly, but the young man shot him a dirty glance and ignored him.

Jack learned his name, Jesse McCree, through Ana. Apparently, the boy was only seventeen, and the only member of the Deadlock gang who hadn't ended behind bars, thanks to Gabriel. The Strike Commander was a bit surprised that his partner hadn't told him about such a story, but he guessed that wasn't the first time Gabriel decided to pick up someone from a random criminal group.

Except Jack was wrong. Gabriel and Jesse apparently had a special bond; outside of missions, they were often seen together, and from what Jack heard, Blackwatch's leader was uncharacteristically indulgent with his stray. Even though it was stupid, Jack couldn't help but feel a form of jealousy towards the cowboy; why should he, a mere kid, get to spend time with Jack's lover and best friend? As soon as such thoughts rose to the surface of Jack's mind, he tried to supress them, deeming them immature and dangerous. But the bitterness lingered, buried deep down in his heart.

As the years passed, the situation deteriorated so slowly that Jack never noticed the signs that everything was starting to go wrong. He passed Gabriel's increasing anger fits as overlabouring, and didn't noticed he was himself starting to become more preoccupied with his work and less with everything and everyone else. He failed to notice the obvious love his friend Angela had for him. He even thought Jesse and Angela's sudden romantic relationship was genuine, only disabused by Gabriel.

That's probably one of his worst memories. Him innocently commenting that Jesse and Angela are a cute couple and good for each other, only for Gabriel to brutally yell at him. The man vented everything at once: Angela's one sided crush, the way she used Jesse as both an emotional crutch and to try and childishly get back at Jack and Gabriel. Reyes could have stopped there, but he didn't, instead choosing to shout his apparently long list of everything that was wrong with Jack.

Thinking only of Overwatch. Being blind to absolutely everyone's feelings, including Gabriel and Ana's. Ignoring Blackwatch agents' anger and bitterness towards the way they're treated by Overwatch. And many, many more.

Although Jack was perfectly capable of outshouting Gabriel and getting enraged himself, he didn't. The weight of his partner's accusations was too much to bear, so he remained silent the whole time, unable to utter a single word of defence. Unable to even stop Gabriel when he ran to the door and left the room, two wet streaks on his scarred cheeks.

He didn't see Gabriel much, afterwards.

One time, at Ana's initiative, to talk to Angela about what she did to Jesse. A very painful conversation, both for him and the medic. Watching her break down as she realized just how messed up she had acted was tough to stomach, even more than the way Gabriel spat his words of ire at her. Once again, jealousy strangled Jack's throat when he realized if Gabriel was in such a state, it was because Jesse was involved. Jack couldn't help but wonder if Gabriel would have acted the same way for him.

A second time, two days before Zurich's events. Gabriel had snuck up in his room late at night, and they had fucked without a word. It had been rough, and they'd both been scratching at the other's skin more than caressing it, more biting each other's lips than kissing.

The last time he saw Gabriel was after a bomb went off in the Zurich headquarters. Jack had dashed away from his office, in a frenzied state, only to stumble upon his old friend in a corridor. Jack had reached out to grab his hand, to drag him away, but he had stopped as his fingers had brushed against Gabriel's wrist.
Gabriel was holding a detonator.
Jack had stumbled away from him, confused. Yelling at Gabriel to stop playing with his nerves, to hurry up and get the hell away with him.
His eyes cold and unforgiving, Gabriel had pressed the button. Through the ringing in his ears, Jack had heard a bomb go off in the distance, followed by helpless screams and disgusting sounds of human bodies being crushed to death.

The rest of their encounter is still a blur in Jack's mind. He only remembers his voice going hoarse with shouting, a pair of hands grabbing his shoulders and a third explosion. Then, an intense pain seizing his whole body, perhaps the worst pain he had ever felt.

He woke up thirteen days later in an unknown hospital. His face was covered in bandages, his body hurt everywhere, but worst of all, he couldn't remember anything. His mind was empty. No memories, no names, not even his own identity. Only a number, the one on his room's door: 76.
His memory only started to come back after a month, and it all came crashing down on him.

His dearest friend, the person he had trusted with his life, Gabriel Reyes, his Gabe, had betrayed him.

The nurses found him yelling nonsensically in his bed, ripping away the various tubes and IVs pumping into his body. His face was covered in blood, as he clawed at the bandages covering it, tearing some skin away with the gauze. After the staff managed to calm him down and to clean him up, he caught a glimpse of his reflection in the window and understood why nobody recognized him. Half of his hair was gone, burned away or teared off probably; and it had gone from very pale blonde to silver white. Two large scars and several small ones were scattered on his unshaven face.

He left the hospital once he felt strong enough to. The medical staff had denied him to: as far as they were concerned, he was amnesiac and still suffering from various organic issues. He had refused to tell them about his real identity, instead making up a fake one, but the doctors had seen right through his lies and deemed him either insane or still suffering from amnesia. Not wanting to spend the rest of his life rotting away in a hospital in an unfamiliar country, he had done what he knew to do best: run away. When the nightshift staff noticed his absence, the man was long gone.

Choosing a new name felt right to him. As he had discovered by reading the newspapers brought to him everyday in the hospital, to the outside world, Jack Morrison was dead. And it was true, in a way; a part of him did die in Zurich, torn away by the bombs and Gabriel's piercing, unforgiving stare.
He settled on simply calling himself Soldier 76. That would be him, from this point on. The man that had woken up in the 76th room in some hospital, without a past save for the Overwatch tattoo on his right shoulder blade.

The next five years, as his time in the SEP, blend together in a shapeless mass.
Days spent hiding and lying, sometimes passing by people Jack Morrison knew but ignoring them deliberately.
Days spent taking the gangrene of the world down. Soldier 76 wasn't bound by the rules that held Jack Morrison down; if he judged someone so disgustingly depraved and dangerous their mere existence was a disgrace to humanity, he took care of them without regret.
Days spent hunting targets down: people he thought could have participated in Overwatch's downfall, people who could have corrupted Gabe. In the end, he found out that the truth was what he feared the most: no one had done anything to influence Reyes. Gabriel had been consumed by his own resentment, jealousy and anger, and Jack had failed to see it.

When he spotted Angela Ziegler in a Spanish train, it was as if he awakened from a long, heavy dream. The weight of the five years 76 had spent on the run fell on his shoulders. She looked as if she hadn't aged a day, but something about her had changed. Perhaps the way she carried herself, or the expression of tiredness and lassitude on her face. 76 noticed she was often checking her phone, as if waiting for someone to call her.
After a while, she ran outside of the carriage, and he decided to follow her. It was moronic, he knew it. They were strangers, now; she was probably a surgeon in a civilian hospital, and he was…

…what even was he?

He didn't get the time to answer his own question, as he heard her voice whispering into her phone:

"Yes, Winston, I'll be there in around twenty minutes. Who'll be here to pick me up? Okay, perfect. See you soon, dear."

Soldier's eyes widened behind his visor. Angela talking to Winston… it was too big a coincidence. Something was happening, he was sure of it. Before Angela could see him stalking her, he rushed to his seat, deciding to find out what exactly was happening.

He got a faint idea when they both stepped down at the terminus and he saw Tracer waving happily at Angela. To see his favourite cadet's cheerful face felt like a blade piercing through his heart; in the five previous years, he had barely taken the time to think about anyone else than Gabriel and himself. He hadn't even cared if one of his other friends had been killed or injured during the attack in Zurich. His eyes getting a bit misty, he discreetly followed Lena and Angela, guilt weighing on his shoulders like lead.

Once the pair got to a small car, he decided it was time to find out what was going on. Deciding to put his theory to the test, he cleared his throat to catch their attention.
A very awkward and heated talk ensued, by the end of which he learnt that Winston had indeed issued a call to gather as many former Overwatch agents as he could. 76 had trouble repressing a laugh at how stupid the idea was, but he decided to join anyways. For a simple reason.

He wanted to see them again.
The people who worked for him. The people who were there for him when a mission went wrong, the people who had his back when the UN and the public opinion attacked him. The people he took for granted without even trying to understand them.
He had to see them again. To see what they had become, and most importantly, to protect them. So there wasn't another Jack Morrison, another Gabriel Reyes or another Zurich ever again.

He was surprised when the small group that had already gathered in Gibraltar accepted him. But as Winston pointed out, they needed as much help as possible, and everyone had heard about Soldier 76 and his crusade for justice in the past years. When they asked him how they should refer to him, he simply grunted that 76 would be enough. He saw confusion and even a bit of worry in his former comrades' eyes, but they accepted his answer nonetheless.

McCree came back, too. Still in a stupid cowboy attire, still speaking with old fashioned mannerisms. Oddly enough, it was comforting for 76 to see that no matter how hard life was and no matter what hardships laid on their path, some people never changed. Lena still smiled warmly, Reinhardt still yelled more than he spoke, Angela's eyes were still full of kindness, and McCree was… well, he was still McCree, that was the only way to put it.

And even though McCree liked to tell incredible stories about what happened to him during the last five years, even if he seemed more mature than before, Soldier noticed that deep down, Jesse McCree hadn't really changed. The way he looked at Hanzo was enough for the old man to know that after all these years, the cowboy was still desperate for someone, anyone, to love him. A small voice in 76's head would whisper in a mocking tone that it sounded familiar, but the soldier would chase it away.
He was nothing like McCree. He wasn't strong enough to have his heart out in the open, not after all the time it took Jack to learn how to show his emotions, only to have this trust in others utterly destroy him.

So he decided to watch out over McCree, who had apparently yet to learn how to protect himself. And one day, he spotted the cowboy running down a hallway with tears running down his face, vainly attempting to wipe them away with the back of his hand. A few moments later, he saw Hanzo try to run up to McCree, only to stop midcourse with a heavy sigh. 76 felt transported years back, on the day a confused and pained Jesse had bumped into him, followed quickly by Lena, who had quickly given up her chase.

76 wasn't surprised when McCree didn't show up for dinner. No one said a word about his absence; after all, only Hanzo and the old soldier knew what happened. As far as the others were concerned, the cowboy was resting in his room.
Soldier had an idea where he was actually hiding; it was a spot he had himself often had to go to, since it used to be Jesse and Lena's favourite place to hang out and the pair tended to forget about the curfew hours. When he reached the top of the building, he found out his intuition had been right; Jesse was standing in front of him. 76 took a few steps, which prompted the cowboy to spin around.

"We were lookin' for you."

It was more "I" than "we", but Jesse didn't need to know that. The younger man walked towards him, and 76 started to head back to the stairs, but he stopped abruptly. Without thinking, he spun around and hugged Jesse; it felt like the right thing to do, just like kissing Gabe in the middle of a battlefield had felt all those years ago. He wasn't even able to understand what emotions exactly he was feeling, and was probably as confused as Jesse.
Regret?
Compassion?
Something else?
Before he could find an answer, as if he was afraid to, 76 stepped away and awkwardly patted Jesse's shoulder.

That night, he didn't get much sleep, his mind too busy trying to process everything that had happened during those few minutes. But as 76 finally started to fall asleep, he hadn't understood much.

A few days later, Soldier was jolted awake by the sound of an alarm blaring. It brought back terrible, terrible memories which he tried to repress; but his fingers were trembling as they tightened around his pulse rifle. Fast as lightning, he bolted out of his room. Athena's voice informed him and the other people in the base that Talon had launched an attack on them. 76 made sure everyone was awake via his intercom, before fighting back. It was an intense brawl, a mess of various projectiles and screams. Thankfully, and even though they severely lacked coordination, the small group of heroes managed to overcome the intruders.

Save for one particular adversary. A giant of a man who was armed with a mean looking gun. 76 noticed that the attacker had his gun aimed at McCree, who was reloading and out of flashbangs. The soldier didn't hesitate – he didn't have time to. His body spoke for him, violently pushing Jesse out of the way and being speared by a bullet immediately after. Thankfully, alerted by the loud noise of 76 crashing on the ground and McCree's yelling, Mei shot an icicle between the Talon agent's eyes.

When 76 opened his eyes, it was to find himself in a bed. He recognized the room he was in: the medical bay. He groaned when he saw his visor lying on the bedside table, and outright whined when he noticed Angela sitting on the edge of his bed. Her eyes were overflowing with tears, and she barely managed to ask:

"Why?"

It was incredible how such a little word could hold so many questions. Why didn't you say anything. Why did you let us think you were dead. Why disappear for five years. Why come back now. Why even come back.
Angela asked every single one of them when he stayed silent for a while. Soldier answered none. It wasn't that he didn't trust Angela, it was simply that he didn't even know the answers. Or rather, they all had the same answer, one he didn't even want to admit to himself.

Because I'm Jack Morrison, and I destroy everyone and everything around me.

He was relieved when Angela left his room, but embarrassed when McCree stepped inside the medbay. It was always weird to see people whose life he saved; more often than not, they thanked him thousands of times and their relationships were never the same again. As if they weren't equals anymore.
But that wasn't Jesse's habit to act that way. He didn't dissolve into tears while praising Soldier's courage; he thanked him simply, but he also insulted himself in the process. And that was something Soldier couldn't tolerate. To see someone as brave, kind, and honest that Jesse McCree despise himself so much hurt him more than he dared admit. When he asked the cowboy if he did believe in his own words, and was answered with a yes, he felt shame and a hint of anger fill his being. Why couldn't Jesse see himself as 76 saw him?

"You're much more than a useless runt, Jesse. I wish you'd see that."

He didn't mean for his voice to sound so pathetic, but he didn't care. What mattered was that Jesse got the message.

In the following days, everyone paid him a visit. It was something that touched 76 deeply, but what he liked the most were the moments he got to spend with Jesse. Not that he didn't enjoy Genji's conversation or Fareeha's visits, but it was… different.
When he was with Jesse, it was as if 76 disappeared and Jack came back to life, like he could let his guard down and trust in someone again. It terrified him as much as it pleased him, but the thrill of this sensation was enough to keep him wanting to spend as much time with Jesse as possible.

In the following months, his relationship with Jesse wasn't the only one that strengthened. He found himself laughing at Junkrat's crude jokes, and enjoying Lucio's improvs on the common room's piano.
Ana joined the organization too; she was the only one besides Angela who knew about 76's identity, but she chose to remain silent about it- after all, she had done something similar herself.

All in all, it was as if his heart started beating again. Like it had stopped five years ago without 76 even realizing it, only to start slowly pumping life into him again. Giving his body oxygen he had deeply craved without knowing it.

Five months after his trip to the medbay, another accident happened. He didn't take a bullet for anyone this time, though; it was sheer bad luck. One of their enemies happened to use a weapon best described as a Taser on steroids, and he was hit full force after losing his balance. He immediately lost consciousness, his old heart struggling to keep on beating. His body fought until he was brought to the safety of his team's chopper, but his heart gave out mid-flight- ventricular fibrillation, Angela will tell him.

Once again, he awakes in the medbay, with his face exposed. This time, his visor isn't on the bedside table; instead lie a few pieces of what remains of it. And sitting on a chair next to his bed is Jesse McCree, fondly looking at him with eyes full of…

Of…

It hits Jack hard when he recognizes the look Jesse gives him. It's the same his mother would have when looking at him running in the garden, the same Gabriel had after their first kiss, the same Angela would give him during his weekly check-ups.

Before he can say a word, Jesse jumps on him and holds him in a tight hug, his face buried in Jack's chest. The old man can feel his shirt get damp with tears, but he doesn't say anything. He's physically unable to- and it's not like words really matter, right now. Sniffling, he wraps his arms around Jesse. And their gestures speak where words fail to.

"I am here."
"I won't leave."

They spend the night together. Jesse sneaks in the medbay, against Angela's instructions, and he lies down next to Jack. The bed, although larger than a standard one, is still pretty narrow for two persons, and they're glued to each other, but they don't care. Lost in the other's arms and warmth, they spend the night talking, only stopping to take their breath and listen to the other's heartbeat.
As the sun starts to rise behind the room's thin curtains, Jack can feel Jesse's breath slowing down. The cowboy's eyes are closed, in a peaceful expression. Jack feels like he's twenty again, like he's carefree and unaware of the harsh reality that is human nature as he gently whispers:

"I love you."

Maybe he's going to regret it, maybe Jesse will shatter his heart like Gabriel did. Maybe another war awaits them, other lives broken and relationships torn away.
But if there's one thing Jesse taught it, it's that nothing is ever damaged beyond repair.
Not even Jack Morrison.


Thank you for reading!
I hope you enjoyed this story. Next part will probably the last, about Jesse and Jack's blooming relationship. And it'll probably end up with a lil mature rating. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
Oh and if I made a mistake (spelling, meaning, grammar...) feel free to tell me so!