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you're a part time lover and a full time friend

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The flat sole of his sneakers slap against the cold linoleum of the Black Mesa Research Facility, squeaking ever so slightly from the residual moisture that clings to his soles. It’d been a humid, sunny day in the New Mexico desert - the clouds in the sky protecting its inhabitants from the worst of the sun’s rays as it beat down against the sand.

Not that they had to worry about the sun, all the way down here.

Tommy shoots a glance over his shoulder, locking eyes with Benrey as he stifles laughter. It was difficult trying to keep his mouth shut as they ran through the spiralling hallways, adrenaline fueling the way his lips threatened to split into a smile with every step.

He was leading the charge, as he so frequently did - his legs were longer, so it was easiest for him to just drag Benrey behind him like some sort of alien balloon - their hands clasped together tightly as he leads them down yet another corridor.

Golden eyes skip over the doors as they pass them, counting the numbers on the doors as they rush down the halls. He could hear footsteps behind them, and they were catching up quickly. If he could just find - ah! There it is.

He pulls open the door to the maintenance room, stepping inside and effectively dragging Benrey inside after him. Not that the other made any move to stop him, or even protest slightly. They were more than used to the tactile way Tommy interacts with the world at large, and it’s not like they minded having him nearby.

Tommy is still giggling at the door closes behind him, chest heaving slightly with the exertion of running through the halls after their most recent adventure. He presses his back against the door, a hand raising to cover his mouth and muffle the sound as his eyes glow with mirth.

Benrey stares back in the dark of the small room, his own golden eyes shining back with something indecipherable. It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence for Benrey to be staring at him like that, but he still hasn't figured out what it meant. Eyes were different from sweet voice, after all.

“Shhh.” Tommy hisses through a smile at a silent Benrey, who rolls his eyes at him.

“i uhh. wasn’t talkin’. if anyone’s making noise here, it’s you. mr. fuckin’ uh, mr. not-coolatta. mr. unchill-latta.” Benrey mumbles back, leaning in so he doesn’t have to raise his voice and alert those outside to their presence. ”wheezin’ over there like an old ass man. are you nineteen or uh, ninety? Maybe Bubs’ will let you u- use his cane.”

This only succeeds in making Tommy laugh harder, his head throwing back to smack against the door with a dull ‘thump.’

The pair stands stock-still immediately, straining their ears for any sign the guards chasing them had heard the impact.

Tommy can barely hear anything over the blood rushing in his ears, but Benrey seems to relax after a few seconds. The tension drains from his shoulders immediately, another bout of giggles building up in his throat.

This time, however, it seems the adrenaline has caught up to Benrey as well, because they start giggling right along with him.

They pull off the regulation security guard helmet they’ve stuffed all their hair into, black curls cascading down his shoulders and bouncing with the shaking of his frame. The lack of a shadow over their eyes means the inhuman gold scleras shine all the brighter in the darkness of their haven.

Laughter tapers off as Benrey catches the way Tommy stares into their eyes, struck by the intensity of his gaze.

He can practically feel the air become charged with… something. Something that they’ve been dancing around for years, joking and teasing and pushing and pulling and bordering on the edge of the unknown.

“sorry, i uh-” Benrey clears his throat, recognizing abruptly the fact he hadn’t leaned back after making his joke earlier - but a hand on his tie prevents him from pulling back.

“You don’t h- have to apologize.” He stresses, and when Benrey looks back up he’s still staring at him with that same golden intensity.

There’s a metaphor here, something about Icarus and the sun, but any and all lyrical thought has fled his mind.

Along with any sense of self preservation, apparently.

Benrey swallows audibly, but stops trying to pull away. His eyes flicker back and forth between Tommy’s, so wide it has to hurt.

“ok.” He finally responds, voice low and yet painfully loud in the environment they’ve created in this hidden corner of the world.

Tommy’s hair is wild as it’s pressed against the door behind him, cheeks flushed with exertion and something else. His eyes are so bright and so intense and so very close to his own. Benrey fights the urge to swallow against the dryness in his throat again, inadvertently flickering his eyes down to catch on his friend’s mouth.

There’s a hitch of breath at the motion, and Benrey’s eyes immediately flash up to meet his, wide like he’d done something wrong. He stares back, nerves crawling up his spine like the cold press of metal against skin, refusing to break the contact.

“Is... “ Tommy starts, moving his hand from its grip on Benrey’s tie to instead settle against their chest, sliding it up incrementally to cup the underside of his cheek. His motions are slow and tentative, like they were a wild animal who was set to dash away at any moment.

His heart was beating like rabbits', but he had no plans to go anywhere.

“Is this o- okay?” Tommy finally manages, his other hand raising between them to settle on his shoulder. He can feel the warmth of their skin against the chill of his own, and it sends a shudder down his spine.

“yeah it’s uh-” He falters as Tommy’s thumb brushes against his cheek a bit, swiping against the sensitive skin with no preamble. “it’s good.” Benrey’s voice threatens to crack on the two syllable sentence, but to his credit Tommy doesn’t laugh at him.

He pulls him closer - Benrey raises his arm up, leaning his forearm on the door behind them to keep himself upright - and they can feel his breath against his skin. They’re so close, closer than they’ve ever been, and he still wants to get closer.

At least he doesn’t think he’s alone.

“Okay?” When he speaks, Benrey can feel Tommy’s breath brush against his own lips, and see the way his eyes glow with a silent question, nearly voiced after so many years.

“...ok.” He manages, nodding his head just barely.

Tommy presses forward, upwards against his body as their lips come together for the first time.

He tastes like the soda he’d been drinking earlier - Sunkist - and Benrey almost laughs. It’s so absurdly fitting for him to taste like this - citrus and sweet and so unequivocally Tommy that the rush of emotions burns in his chest like a flame.

His hand - which had previously been dangling uselessly by his side - raises instead to steady himself by grabbing onto the hips of the man in front of him. Tommy smiles into the kiss, pressing himself closer.

It feels like the breaking of a dam, but there’s no rush here. There’s no outpouring of desire, no desperate need to make up for lost time - it hadn’t been lost in the first place. They’d spent all that time together, after all.

There’s a beat before they pull away, Tommy’s eyes fluttering open from where he’d closed them, meeting Benrey’s wide-eyed stare with…

With love.

Tommy has always loved Benrey. Benrey has always loved Tommy. But this - right here, in this moment, Benrey knows the extent of that love. It’s right here, in this moment, staring into golden eyes that look at him like he’s something to be treasured. Like he’s something to be protected.

It burns in his throat, and in that moment he can’t help the song that escapes him.

He manages to turn his throat before the notes escape, a neon light show that illuminates the room in a cacophony of colors. Tommy turns to inspect the colors, and Benrey can see his inquisitive mind kick into gear as he struggles to decipher the ombre that surrounds them.

There’s pink to blue - of course there’s pink to blue - but it’s more than just that. Pinks and blues and purples and oranges and yellows, the sunset discordance of shades floating aimlessly in the air.

Tommy turns towards him wordlessly, obviously stumped by the sea of emotions that surrounds them, but Benrey shies away from the gaze for once.

“Pink to blue to purple to orange to yellow?” He voices, not pulling his eyes away from Benrey’s profile as they turn their face away from him. The blush that floods his cheeks is illuminated by his own creations, the dirty traitors.

“its uh,” they hesitate, turning his face just enough to meet Tommy’s gaze for a second before turning away again. “it’s kinda hard to explain. it's just uhm.” Benrey huffs out a puff of hot air, leaning forward to press his forehead into the crook of Tommy’s neck, his arms instinctively wrapping around the shorter man.

“it means i love you, but uh. in a special gamer way. unlocked the secret ending, special bonus points.” He mumbles against his throat, eyes closing as Tommy’s hand raises to run his fingers through their hair.

There’s a beat of silence, where he can practically hear the cogs turning in Tommy’s mind as he formulates his response. It’s something he’s used to - Benrey needs time to process words, Tommy needs time to form words - so it doesn’t spark the anxiety he’s sure would spring to mind with anyone else.

Not that he’d ever wanted anyone else.

“Mmmmm.” Tommy hums, a pale comparison to the sweet voice Benrey’d just displayed, but it forces a hitch in his throat nonetheless. It’s not the right note, his throat can’t hit the pitch right, but - Tommy does it again, and Benrey’s shoulders shake weakly.

He always knows just what to say.

Years later, running through these same halls, Benrey will catch his partner’s eyes and he will hum the same tune, a call and response that’s as easy as breathing. They will find themselves in unfamiliar situations with strangers and dangers and aliens, and Tommy will look right back with that same golden intensity and hum back with a smile on his face.

Pink to Blue. I love you.