“Ben!” Reed shouts as he skids around the corner, his garage finally coming into view. His shoes slip a little on the loose gravel as he practically sprints towards the open door on the side of the building. He keeps up his stream of “Benbenbenbenbenbenbenben” until he reaches the doorway, where he promptly forgets Newton’s First Law and slams face first into the door frame.
Normally he’d be embarrassed that he’d just made a complete fool of himself in front of his best friend. Today, however, Reed’s too excited to care. He’s across the room before Ben can finish his startled shout of “Jesus, Reed!”
A litany of “Guess what?”s pour from Reed’s mouth as he rushes to where Ben is standing on the far side of the garage. Ben’s brow is wrinkled in concern, and Reed isn’t surprised. He can feel the flush in his face from the exertion, and he’s breathing like he’s just run a marathon. Not to mention the fact he'd just flung himself into a door frame less than three seconds ago.
“You okay, buddy?” Ben asks, completely ignoring the bombardment. “You just went from sixty to zero in like two seconds flat.” He reaches out like he’s going to personally check Reed for injuries, but Reed bats his hands away.
“Stop, I’m fine, seriously, but you need to guess what. ” Reed’s not sure whether he’s actually bouncing, or whether he’s just so excited it feels like he is.
Ben sighs, reluctantly lowering his arms. “What,” he states flatly.
“No, come on!” Reed practically begs. “You’ve got to guess. ” He tries to make his eyes big and pleading, using what Ben likes to call his ‘Bambi eyes.’ It’s a look he’s used with Ben for years now: … Come on, just ten more minutes, I promise I’ll go to bed early tomorrow . . . Can’t you just stay the night, instead? It’ll be easier than having to come back in the morning . . . Yes, I know that it blew up in my face yesterday, but I’m pretty sure I know what went wrong, so please just let me test it? I’ll let you hold the fire extinguisher . . .
Ben stares at him, his expression betraying nothing. Reed starts to think that maybe he’s overstepped somehow, broken some sort of social contract he wasn’t aware of, but then Ben is rolling his eyes and Reed sees a smile twitch at the corner of Ben’s mouth.
“Let me guess…” Ben drawls, taking the time to cross his arms and lean back on the workbench behind him. He quirks an eyebrow. “They’ve finally figured out a way for people to live solely on poptarts and gummy vitamins.”
It’s Reed’s turn to roll his eyes. “No, they haven’t figured that out yet.” Under his breath, he adds, “Unfortunately.” Reed’s not sure whether it’s what he said or something he does with his face, but Ben snorts and shakes his head affectionately.
“You are such a dork, Reed,” he teases. “Now just tell me whatever it is you wanted to tell me. A minute ago, you looked like you were gonna spontaneously combust.”
Like he’s been hit with a bolt of electricity, Reed immediately perks back up with an excited “Oh, yeah!” He urgently grabs Ben’s shoulders. The only indication that Ben is startled is the way his eyebrows jump a little up his forehead. “Ben, you are not going to believe what Bill Nye posted on his Instagram. He—”
“You follow Bill Nye on instagram?” Ben interrupts, one eyebrow quirked.
Reed blinks. “Yes?”
Ben huffs. “Of course you do.”
Reed simply shakes his head and continues. “Anyways, he posted a video about gravitational waves and, Ben, they have proof !”
Ben’s brow scrunches. “Proof of what?”
“ Gravitational waves . Which means Einstein was right!”
“About…?” Ben prompts.
“About his theory of relativity! For a hundred years, scientists have been trying to prove all the aspects of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, and they’ve finally proved the final piece: the existence of gravitational waves — actual ripples in the fabric of spacetime!” Reed lets go of Ben’s shoulders to shove both hands through his hair. “Do you have any idea how huge this is?”
Ben gives him a dry look. “Obviously it’s huge if you’re this worked up about it.”
“This is probably one of the biggest physics breakthroughs the scientific community has seen in years ,” Reed insists, throwing his hands up in the air for a moment before bringing them back down to the top of his head. He continues quietly, “This changes everything.”
In a blink, Reed rushes to the chalkboard shoved into the far corner of the workshop. “Ben, this changes everything. ” In his mad scramble to find a piece of chalk, he knocks over an old soup can, spilling various pens, pencils, and highlighters all over the nearby desk. Reed ignores the mess and begins frantically erasing and rewriting different equations, figures, and diagrams. “We’re gonna have to rework some of our original equations, not to mention tweak most of the coding we’ve done. It’s probably going to take awhile to fix everything, but in the end it’s gonna be so worth it. We might even be able to figure out where the hell we’ve been sending all those toy cars over the years. And this doesn’t even begin to cover what it means for the rest of the scientific community, or hell, the rest of the world .” Reed pauses his manic scribbling and turns to beam at his best friend. “Ben, this could be—” The words dry up in his throat when he notices the way Ben is watching him.
Over the years, Reed has gotten pretty good at reading Ben’s different looks. It helps that they’ve spent pretty much every single day together since the night Reed broke into the Grimm family junkyard and tried to steal a power converter. At some point — Reed can’t quite remember when — he started paying more attention to the looks Ben gave him, and more specifically to the looks he caused. Whenever he made Ben smile or laugh, a warmth would settle inside his chest that would last the entire day. Whenever he made Ben angry, or worried, or accidentally hurt him in some way… Reed would rather the teleporter explode in his face. Again.
It had taken Reed a lot longer than he’d like to admit to realize that he had developed… romantic feelings for Ben. That was mostly due to the fact that he’d had no idea what romantic feelings were . Nobody had ever taken the time to explain to him what they felt like or what they meant. It wasn’t until high school, when he overheard two girls talking about relationships and how it was all about wanting to get to know each other better (among other things), that he had realized: the only person Reed had ever wanted to get to know was Ben.
And Reed does know Ben. He knows Ben’s favorite books and tv shows, he knows that Ben’s favorite meal is his mother’s homemade potato kugel, he knows the ways Ben takes his coffee depending on his mood and how much sleep he’s gotten… the list goes on. He’s pretty sure he knows Ben better than he knows himself at this point.
But Reed finds that he wants to know more . He wants to know anything and everything there is to know about Ben… starting with figuring out the look Ben’s currently giving him.
Because Reed’s seen this look before. He’s noticed it a few times in the past few months — just quick snatches before Ben looked away or was distracted by one thing or another — and he hasn’t been able to figure out what it means yet. He assumes it’s a good thing by the way Ben’s smiling softly, but there’s something about his eyes that Reed just can’t figure out. It reminds him of the looks he sees in the characters of the romantic comedies his mother likes to watch. It’s almost as if…
The realization hits him like a ton of bricks as the pieces finally click, and he drops the chalk he’d had poised mid-equation. Ben starts at the noise, blinking back into awareness. When he catches Reed staring back at him, he immediately averts his gaze to what appears to be an oil stain on the floor. Reed catalogues the way Ben’s whole face flushes bright red, all the way to the tips of his ears. It may be one of the most adorable things Reed has ever seen.
Reed doesn’t realize he’s walked over to Ben until he’s standing right in front of him, watching Ben avoid eye contact like it’s the plague. He tries to out-wait Ben’s avoidance, but Ben is as stubborn as they come, clearing his throat and looking at anything and everything except Reed.
“Ben.” It’s a request, not a demand. Ben steels himself before looking at Reed, crossing his arms and putting up invisible walls so Reed can’t know what he’s thinking. And Reed hates that Ben does that — hates that he can’t tell whether or not he’s about to make the biggest mistake of his entire life. He swallows.
Don’t blow up, he thinks, right before he closes the distance and presses his lips to Ben’s.
For a moment, nothing happens. Reed is ecstatic because Ben isn’t freaking out, isn’t shoving him away or yelling at him or any number of things, and it has to be a good sign, it has to be. But as nothing continues to happen, as Ben continues to stand there frozen and silent… his entire world implodes.
Reed pulls back slowly, eyes still closed. He refuses to see the look on Ben’s face — refuses to see the anger, the pity, the hurt.
“ Fuck, ” Reed whispers. He needs to get out of there immediately, before he does something even more stupid like burst into tears.
He turns to run and gets two steps away before Ben exclaims, “Reed, wait!” Ben grabs his arm right as he trips over a bright orange extension cord weaving its way across the floor. They both go down, Reed slamming onto the floor with Ben landing heavily on Reed’s back.
“Shit, Reed!” Ben exclaims as he scrambles off. “You okay?” Ben helps Reed roll over, keeping a hand on his shoulder and leaning worriedly over him. Reed glimpses the concern on Ben’s face for only a moment before he slams his eyes shut. He can't handle Ben’s unwavering kindness right now. It's just too much. It’s reminding him of what he’s losing, of what he’s never going to have again. It’s reminding him that he’s going to lose his one and only friend — the one and only person who really cares about him, the one and only person he loves more than anything. Reed can’t speak around the giant lump in his throat. He just nods, eyes still closed, and waits for Ben to let go of his shoulder and move away so he can run away to Panama or Australia and never have to deal with his feelings ever again.
Only— only Ben isn’t letting go. The grip on his shoulder tightens, and there’s the soft scratch of denim against concrete as Ben slowly shifts so that he’s kneeling closer to Reed. A leg presses against Reed’s side and it takes all of his will power not to flinch away from the contact. Reed waits for another few moments, heart trying to break out of his chest, before daring to open his eyes. When he finally does, his heart stops beating altogether.
Ben is staring at him, but it’s more than that. Ben’s staring into him, like he’s looking into Reed’s soul . And Reed is frozen, staring right back. He can’t move, can’t breathe, because he thinks he might see hope in Ben’s eyes and it has to be too good to be true.
His eyes stray to Ben’s mouth as Ben licks his lips. “Why’d you kiss me?” Ben asks quietly, never once looking away from Reed.
“Because you’re beautiful.” The words spill out of Reed’s mouth before he can even think about censoring his thoughts. For a moment, he’s mortified. He briefly wonders whether it’s possible to literally die from embarrassment before noticing that Ben’s face and ears have once again turned a bright pink. And when Ben still doesn’t move away, Reed decides he doesn’t regret it. He swallows thickly before adding, “And I wanted to.”
A moment stretches like infinity between them.
“I want to kiss you, too.” Ben murmurs. Reed doesn’t get a second to process that statement before Ben’s leaning over, bracing his hands on either side of Reed’s head, and kissing him.
The kiss is nothing and everything like Reed’s ever imagined. It’s slightly awkward, his glasses crushed against his face and his nose scrunched against Ben’s — but he also feels like he’s been ignited, like his insides are on fire, like it’s burning all the oxygen in his lungs and he’s running out of air. But Reed doesn’t care because it feels so warm and good and right.
While he wishes that this moment could go on forever, his lungs eventually conclude that he does, in fact, need to breathe. They break apart, both panting, and Ben rests his forehead against Reed’s as if he can’t bear to be any further. As he’s laying there, Ben still braced above him, Reed can’t help but think that while things could have gone so much worse, they’ve gone so much better than he could ever have imagined. Not only does he get to love Ben and have Ben in his life, but Ben actually loves him back when everyone else in his life has merely tolerated him at best, outright hated him at worst. It’s such an amazingly wonderful thought that Reed is overwhelmed. He doesn’t realize he’s crying until he feels the tears track down his temples and into his hair.
“Reed?” Ben asks, almost a whisper. He pushes up Reed’s glasses and wipes away the tears with his thumb. It’s such a simple gesture — such an innocent moment — but to Reed it’s huge, like his heart has been filled with helium and it’s trying to burst out of his chest.
“I’m just really happy,” Reed manages to choke out. He sniffles wetly before moving his hands to wrap around Ben’s wrists. “I’m just really, really, really, insanely, over-the-moon.”
Ben smiles, bright and brilliant and radiant before replying, “Me too, buddy.” He leans down to kiss Reed again, softer and sweeter. Pulling back only just, he whispers against Reed’s lips, “ Me too .”
“You can’t blame gravity for falling in love.” -Albert Einstein