Stress-Strain Relationship

i was commissioned to write part 4 of ASMR: the one where gordon freeman gets crossfaded and nuts in his pants and yells about his feelings. not necessarily in that order

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It’s been a long fucking couple of weeks, Gordon Freeman thinks, under the washed-out glare of fluorescent lights. He tugs the tie around his neck into something approaching a knot. Honestly, it’s been hard to tell just how long it’s been since, well, Everything. Time passes differently when you’re cooped up at home, no job, no friends, whatever. Well. Maybe he’s got one friend. After a fashion. But more importantly, he’s got that job now, too. Gordon runs a comb through his hair in preparation for it.

It’s nothing too crazy. Just an adjunct position kind of thing. Maybe teaching a bunch of engineering students about statics and dynamics wasn’t where he saw himself this time last year, but it’s better than nothing, right? At the very least, it’s better than sitting in his apartment. Alone. Surrounded by an unmanageable maze of Rube Goldberg machines. (He really needs to clean those up, or something, but he doesn’t have the heart to do it right now. Gordon tries to convince himself that they’ll make good practical examples.) He’s not in a position to be picky.

He draws his hair back into his usual short ponytail, then sets to work pulling on socks and fastening them in place with garters. Something about it feels a little excessive, but Gordon feels like he should be putting his best foot forward. It would be nice to keep this job, anyway. Every little bit helps.

Tuck in shirt. Fasten belt. Sling suit jacket over shoulders. Open palm slam a cup of coffee into his mouth after he realizes he’s budgeted his time poorly and he really needs to get a move on. It’s fine! He’s fine. This is Gordon Freeman’s time to shine at last, and he’s going to have a great first day on the job, so help him God.

Gordon slams his apartment door shut several hours later, utterly disheveled. Maybe “great” was an overstatement. He should have tempered his expectations. After all, if his first day at Black Mesa went as fucking badly as it did, what guarantee did he have that this was going to be much better?

Surely, the next day won’t be so bad. This is just, like, new job jitters. He’s sure of it. All Gordon needs is a nice, long, blisteringly-hot shower to take his mind off of things, and then he’ll be back to normal. Well, he thinks this, anyway. But the way his feet ache as he stands under the spray is an unpleasant reminder that reality subverts expectation more often than not.

Then the next day passes much the same way. And the next. By the time Thursday rolls around, Gordon’s sporting a fine set of bags under his eyes. He’d forgotten just how much of a toll it took on him to be up at the plinth, talking, teaching, making eye contact. Subjecting himself to the scrutiny of a lecture hall packed to the brim with inquisitive (and ruthless) college students. It comes as a welcome relief when he can close his door behind him at the end of the day, putting a solid barrier between him and the hundreds of eyes on him. In here, Gordon’s alone. Fantastically alone. In theory. He narrows his eyes suspiciously at his surroundings, but decides not to indulge that particular thought.

What he needs is to blow off some goddamn steam, he thinks. But, Jesus, his limbs feel like lead. After Gordon finishes checking his emails and doing bullshit administrative work, all he’s got the energy for is collapsing in his armchair and watching Twitch streamers on his PS3. Once upon a time, he dreamed of joining their ranks, but that was before, like, Everything. He can’t even properly conceptualize of what to call it other than that. Because Black Mesa really did feel like everything.

Before Black Mesa, there’s just a blur of vague, mundane memories that almost feel like they belong to another person. And after, there’s a blur of a different kind, days smearing into weeks and months without much substance to them. But during? That’s when his whole life happened, he feels like. Everything. It’s disconcerting. And not something he likes to think about overly much.

This is the first time he’s booted up the console in a week, and Gordon’s immediately greeted by a message from… who else.

From: johnwicklover1994

yo. whats kickin freeman. grand theft autooo lets fuckin goooo

From: CERNibleBenefits93

Sorry, man. Too tired. Maybe tomorrow?

Gordon pauses to reflect on this. Then boldness grips him, mostly due to sheer exhaustion. Being tired makes him a little stupid.

From: CERNibleBenefits93

I could come over? Hang out?

From: johnwicklover94

uhhh yeah ok. cool. bring me some snacks or sumn. im thirsty

From: CERNibleBenefit93

Dude I’m not coming over right this second. Get your own snacks.

With that, Gordon goes back to what he was actually doing, leaving Benrey’s last message of “bbbbbbb” there to sit. He’s so tired that he ends up passing out in the middle of a - he squints at the screen in the morning, groggy and stiff-necked - Chex Quest stream. He’ll get used to it, he tells himself. He’s just gotta find his sea legs. Or something.

That clock can’t tick towards 5 o’clock fast enough. Gordon’s leg jitters all afternoon until, finally, his lectures are over, his emails are sorted, and his first assignments are divvied out to his long-suffering TAs. (If there’s one upside to this situation, it’s that he isn’t the long-suffering TA for once.) And then he books it toward the corner store with a one-track mind: he is going to pick up a 6-pack of cheap beer and he is going to chill the fuck out. Gordon doesn’t even stop home to change his clothes.

The late afternoon sun’s baked him halfway to a crisp before he makes it to Benrey’s door. He pounds it with his free hand, harder than he intended, and it swings open to reveal the guy in question, his eyebrows raised to his hairline.

“whoa. you look like, uhhh, shit.”

“Don’t you ever have anything nice to say to me,” Gordon says tiredly.

“what? oh, yo, snacks. nice.” Benrey’s eyes alight on the plastic bag in his hands as he lets Gordon in.

“Not for you,” he says on instinct, before remembering that he’d like to be able to walk back home later without assistance. “Uh, well, I mean, they’re not all for you. Do you want—”

Benrey’s already ferreting through the bag before Gordon can finish that thought. “sweeeet,” he drawls, bottle in hand. Then he pries the cap off with his teeth.

Gordon winces.

For his part, Gordon toes off his shoes and shrugs his suit jacket off his shoulders before settling in, like a normal person. Benrey flops back onto his couch as he does. “fuckin’, drop that shit wherever, i don’t care,” he says. Judging by the state of his apartment, Gordon believes him. He slings it over the back of a chair for lack of anywhere better.

Gordon’s too beat to muster up the energy for Street Fighter right now, and he says as much. Works for Benrey. He’s apparently got quite the curated selection of YouTube videos for days just like this, although Gordon has some reservations about his taste. A lot of his playlists seem to consist of videos with less than 10 views, of things like people exploring mineshafts in crisp 240p. He’s not sure he’s in the right headspace for that. Instead, Gordon picks out some footage from a recent fighting game tournament, intent on picking up some new tech before he hands Benrey’s ass to him again.

Speaking of which. Benrey stops paying attention midway through to dig behind his couch, grunting from the effort while Gordon looks on with mild horror. What the hell could he possibly be looking for? Not that he has very long to ponder that - he’s already turning back around with a dented, silvery tin in hand. And he’s… he’s opening it up to reveal a mass of crumpled papers, resin-stained glassware, and a ziplock bag with a fat, green nug of weed inside. Gordon can’t help but blink.

“Oh. Uh. I didn’t know you… partook.”

“uhhh duh,” Benrey says, too busy sifting through the tin to look at him. And in retrospect, yeah, duh. If Gordon thinks about it for more than two seconds, Benrey’s entire vibe precludes anything else.

He’s weirdly quiet as he pulls out a metal grinder and a thin, rectangular packet of rolling papers. There’s something akin to ritual in it: the careful plucking of leaf from stem, the rasp of metal against metal as Benrey grinds, the way he thumbs through the resulting fluffy pile to investigate it for seeds and other unwanted bits. Gordon gets the strange sensation that he shouldn’t interrupt. Instead, he keeps his eyes on Benrey’s hands while he works. They’re short, broad, almost square. Stubby fingers, their nails painted black and chipping at the edges. And yet, despite their appearance, they’re surprisingly deft and graceful. He swallows as they line the paper with bud and start to roll. Gordon’s always been shit at it, himself, but Benrey’s clearly got a practiced hand, and there’s almost something hypnotic about the way he rolls the joint between finger and thumb until it’s a neat, tight cylinder.

Then Benrey holds it up to lick the seam, and Gordon’s eyes jerk to, well, that. His tongue’s broad and wet and the sight of it peeking out of his mouth makes Gordon’s face burn. A learned response. Benrey’s eyes shift to meet his, and his mouth curls up into a mean little grin.

“you wanna hit this shit?”

Gordon nods so decisively that he knocks his glasses askew. When he rights them, he spots Benrey’s shoulders shaking with laughter, and it makes the whole ‘morbid embarrassment’ thing worse.

“funnyyy. freeman herb hours,” Benrey says.

“I’m not a— I’m not a herb! You don’t even know me, man. I do this shit all the time. It’s the Gordon Freeman motto - live fast, smoke grass, and eat ass,” he declares with a confidence that he does not deserve in the slightest.

Benrey snorts at him. “yeah okay. i’ll believe it when i see it, gordo.” He hands Gordon a lighter in an invitation to do just that.

In defiance, Gordon sparks up and takes a long drag. Benrey’s not the only one who’s practiced. He lets it linger in his lungs until the burn dies down, then slowly lets that cloud of smoke back out.

“not bad,” he admits, eyebrows raised. “that’s two outta three. you gonna, uhhh… show off that last thing, too?”

Gordon coughs suddenly. His eyes water, and his throat burns with it, and he’s starting to feel like a real fucking herb. He can’t just— he can’t just say that kind of shit, Gordon thinks, indignant. Benrey cackles at him the entire goddamn time he’s dying. Then he plucks the lit joint from Gordon’s fingers and hits that shit himself.

It really starts to hit him around the third or fourth pass. Tension leaches out of him, first dropwise, then all at once. Gordon melts back into the couch cushions. “Hey, Benrey,” Gordon starts, “why aren’t any of my combos coming out?”

“uhhh, this is a youtube video, bro.”

He blinks at the TV and realizes that Benrey’s right. “Oh.”

For some reason, that makes him laugh, and then he remembers the reason why he's laughing so easily and he laughs harder. Benrey starts laughing, too. It’s a nice laugh. Low and rumbly. He wants to hear more of it, he thinks. He remembers this feeling, too, or something like it, from back in Black Mesa. In between all the arguing and fighting and general antagonism, there was shit like this. That weird, bubbly feeling of getting a rise out of him. Making stupid noises at each other under the water (and, for whatever reason, only at each other). Playing the fucking game. Ordinarily, Gordon thinks he’d be getting chills thinking about all this ‘feelings’ shit, but there’s just warmth spilling over his shoulders and out of his mouth.

Gordon doesn’t notice Benrey attempting to pass the joint back to him. Instead, he zones out, blankly looking at the screen. There’s no way that wasn’t mutual, right? Like, there’s so much shit Benrey did that doesn’t make any sense. Sure, he was a real irritating son of a bitch at the best of times, but he was funny, too. He had jokes. And jokes aren’t something you tell so much to people you can’t fucking stand. The point of a joke is to make somebody laugh, or at least, most of the time it is. Right? A feeling that Gordon can’t pin down curls up in his chest when he thinks about Benrey going out of his way to make him laugh. On purpose.

“yo, earth to gordon,” Benrey says, snapping his fingers in front of Gordon’s face. “you good?”


“gordon freeman's fuckin’ gone,” he snorts. Then he takes another long drag, and lets it out in failed attempts at smoke rings. They’re more like smoke Klein bottles than anything.

It’s a little condescending, but Gordon finds that he doesn’t care as much about that as he should. Instead, he rolls his eyes and downs a solid half of his beer in one pull. God, he’s thirsty. “It’s been awhile, man. Cut me some slack.” Gordon’s eyes alight on Benrey’s hand as he hits it again, curiously transfixed on that almost-delicate grip he’s got. He’s really good with his hands, Gordon realizes, thoughts belated and slow like molasses. His mouth hangs open, but it takes a moment for him to finally say out loud, “Keep going like that and you’re gonna end up more fucked than I am.”

“wouldn’t that be crazy.” Benrey blows smoke in his face. Gordon coughs, offended. The implications of that statement fly right over his head.

They watch more videos. Gordon’s a little too disconnected from reality to make his hands function, and it’s easier for him to sink back into the cushions and tell Benrey to look up that guy who makes all the knives. His process is soothing, if kind of inscrutable. But Benrey’s not crazy about that - says they’re too boring - and he puts on videos of hydraulic presses crushing various household objects instead. Gordon can live with this. It's oddly satisfying, watching crayons get smashed into a single technicolor disk.

After Benrey sets down his bottle - empty now, from the hollow sound it makes - he glances at Gordon out of the side of his eye. “thought you came over here to, uhhh, chill out or whatever.”

“Uh, yeah?” Gordon gestures to the paraphernalia scattered across Benrey’s coffee table. “What about me isn’t chill right now?”

“you’re still wearin’… like, all that nerd shit,” Benrey says, gesturing in turn to Gordon’s outfit. “take it off, bro.”

A solid thirty seconds pass before those words sink into his brain. Then his ears turn a bright pink. “These are just— they’re normal work clothes. It’s not ‘nerd shit’. Though, uh,” he says as he scratches the back of his neck, “I guess I am feeling kind of warm. What’s your A/C set to?”

“uhhh, i dunno. 69. ha ha.”

Gordon snorts despite himself.

Benrey smirks in a way that’s starting to feel weirdly comfortable, then he elbows Gordon and says, “whatcha waitin’ for, friend. lookin’ all sweaty, aren’tcha? gonna… gonna show off for me maybe? lil’ show for benrey?” He leans back expectantly, and Gordon does start to sweat.

“Um.” He swallows. So he wasn’t just imagining those flirtatious overtones earlier. This is— this is stupid. He’s not really gonna put on a fucking show for the guy. But Benrey watches with rapt attention as Gordon gets to his feet, hands fumbling with his tie. “Look, I’m— I’m not doing this for you, alright, it’s just really fucking hot in here, okay?”


That doesn’t stop his breath from catching in his throat when Benrey spreads his legs a little wider on the couch. A not-so-subtle indication that, yeah, okay, he’s getting off on seeing Gordon pull his tie loose, and struggling to thread the buttons at his neck back out of their holes. Gordon’s never really been subject to this kind of scrutiny, and his hands are made all the more clumsy by that laser-focus. It’s… it’s bizarre. Gordon Freeman, PhD isn’t exactly the kind of guy that anybody’s wanted to see do a fucking striptease before. It’s hard for him to shake the feeling that this is a joke. That he’s being had.

But Benrey’s fingers dig into his thighs as that first sliver of flesh peeks out from his dress shirt. Okay. If it is a joke, he’s doing a good job committing to the bit. Too good, actually. Gordon doesn’t know what he’s trying to rush for, now that he thinks about it - it’s just making his fingers slip. So he slows himself. And he chances a glance at Benrey instead of staring down at his hands.

With each button he undoes, Benrey follows the motion, eyes trailing down his chest. His shirt parts to reveal the (slightly sweaty) tank top he’s got on underneath. Not exactly what Gordon would call ‘sexy’, but Benrey’s mouth parts in anticipation anyway. Blood rushes to Gordon’s face. There’s something kind of heady about having his attention like this. Drawing it out. Being the one in control of Benrey’s reactions, even though, in theory, he’s the one being bossed around here.

Gordon was convinced he was a normal guy just last month, one whose greatest indiscretion was looking too long at swimsuit calendars, but now? Thinking about how fucking good it feels to be in control of Benrey makes his head spin, all those interlocking layers of just who is jerking whom around notwithstanding. (Honestly, they might even add to the experience.) Now Gordon’s the one whose breathing’s gone all funny. He gets to the hem of his shirt, then starts on his wrists, turning them so that they’re upright and bare as he undoes the buttons there, too. Deliberate. Slow. Benrey lets out a strange, low noise.

At long last, Gordon shrugs his shirt off his shoulders. When he looks down again, Benrey’s got a healthy shade of pink high in his cheeks. Cool. Good. He hangs it on the back of a chair.

Then he steps back over to the couch. In front of Benrey. Who sits up straighter, looking at him with raised eyebrows. As Gordon’s hands drift tentatively to his belt, Benrey leans forward, elbows on his knees.

“nice,” he mutters.

There’s a lazy grin unfolding on his face, and Gordon realizes at last just what kind of position they’re in. Benrey’s head hovers around waist height, and Gordon’s thumbing over the latch of his belt buckle, and he is, embarrassingly, half-hard in his slacks, and there’s a tension that blankets the room like a fog. He looks like he’s— like he’s going to— and Benrey looks like he wants to—

Oh, God.

His heart rate skyrockets, but it doesn’t stop him from working open his belt. Gordon just wishes his dick would fucking behave right now. Nerves make the hairs on the back of his neck prickle, because it very much is not doing that, and he can feel it press insistently against his zipper. Gordon’s hands are so damp with sweat, and he wipes them on the front of his pants before attempting to get his fly open. Easier said than done. They slip on the button; he’s sure that Benrey’s going to laugh at him, because this feels decidedly awkward and not enticing in the slightest, but Benrey just sits there and waits. Eyes wide. On him.

Gordon drags that zipper down, inch by inch. Benrey’s mouth opens, but it takes a few moments for him to let out, “fuuuck, bro,” under his breath.

Jesus. He could. He could listen to the impulse that lingers in his thumbs, tucked just under the waistband of his boxers. Pull them down, expose himself, and dare Benrey to make good on that unspoken suggestion made by his teeth digging into his lip. But a chill crawls up his spine all of a sudden. It’s too much. It’s way too bold of him. This whole scenario has been way too fucking bold of him, and Gordon’s struck by the urge to just get it over with and pretend that he wasn’t just stripping for Benrey. So he does - Gordon shucks off his pants without further fanfare, and he kicks them to the side before dropping back onto Benrey’s couch like a stone. A cold sweat plasters him to it.

“So, uh,” Gordon says, reaching for another beer, “YouTube? Videos? Watch?” The heat that crashes over him this time is one of distinctly un-horny embarrassment. He gulps it down until he feels the specter of Benrey’s hungry gaze leave him.

“uhhh. yeah.” Benrey’s voice comes out rough, and he clears his throat. Then he settles back and not-so-subtly crosses his legs.

Right. Videos. The next few that come up just dance over his vision without sinking in. Gordon’s too lost in thought to absorb their contents, the refrain of “what if, oh my God, what if” looping in his mind. Yeah, dipshit, what if? You probably could’ve gotten your dick sucked again. Remember how good it was last time?

Yeah, he does. That’s half the reason why he chickened out in the first place. They haven’t even talked about, well, whatever it is that’s going on between them. He can’t just be going and shoving his dick down Benrey’s throat at the slightest provocation. No matter how game Benrey looked.

Time flies, and that first empty beer bottle is soon joined by a second. And a third. Looks like he’s out already. Maybe that’s for the best - an ugly thought’s been worming its way into Gordon’s brain, even as he’s watching some guy electroplate an entire fender with gold. Benrey just keeps doing this shit to him. He came over to wipe the floor with Benrey in Street Fighter after a long week of work, not to be bullied into stripping down to his boxers. And it’s been hours already. They haven’t played a single goddamn match. Whatever Benrey wants, Benrey gets, apparently, and Gordon’s just along for the ride. (It doesn’t matter how much he likes the ride, Gordon thinks, a little pissy at his backstabbing brain. Whispering insidious shit into his ear like that. It’s the principle of the thing.)

Gordon tries to sit up, but he’s quickly disoriented by the leadenness of his arms. “Okay, I wanna do something else. It’s kind of starting to piss me off how much shit these guys are breaking. Like, it’s just wasteful. What kind of YouTube guy has ‘24 carat gold bar’ money, anyway?” he asks.

“what? no way. i wanna watch this one. he’s gonna smash like a hundred DVDs.”

“C’mon, it’s been, like, two hours.”

Benrey doesn’t budge. And when Gordon reaches over to grab the controller, he yanks it out of his reach. Irritation spikes in his blood.

“What the hell, man? Why’re you being so obstinate?” Gordon folds his arms over his chest.

“what’s the big deal,” huffs Benrey. “i thought you liked ‘em.”

“Uh, yeah, I thought they were fine two hours ago.” When Benrey doesn’t make any motion to pause the video, Gordon’s brows furrow, and there’s a mean downward turn to his mouth. “Are you even listening to me? Have you, like, ever listened to me?” An anger creeps into his voice that’s more venomous than the situation warrants. But there’s a dam in him that’s been leaking for weeks now, and frankly, he’s getting tired of jamming his fingers into the cracks.

“it’s just a youtube video. calm down maybe?”

Gordon’s mouth twists into an ugly frown. “Calm down. You want me to calm down. Well, you know what, Benrey, maybe it isn’t just a YouTube video, okay? Maybe it’s more than just a fucking YouTube video, bro.”

Across from him, Benrey stands up, two empty bottles in his hands. “what?” he asks, but his tone is flat and clearly disinterested, as ever, as he makes his way to the kitchen to throw them away.

“What I'm getting at, here,” starts Gordon, rising up from the couch to follow him, “is that maybe I’m talking about, like, everything?” Those beers linger in his arms and legs, heavier than they have a right to be. And they loosen his tongue enough for him to spit out, “Do you even— do you even give a shit about what I’m feeling? Ever? You can’t just walk all over me like this, man!”

Benrey turns back to look at him. His eyes are narrowed, and his brow furrowed, and his nose wrinkles like a dog's as he says, “what the hell, man? what’s your problem?”

“My problem is you, Benrey!” He slams his palm down on the counter for emphasis. “You just— you don’t even know how shitty you’ve been to me this whole time! You just, you do whatever you want, and I don’t even factor into it like I’m a— like I’m a real person! Like I’m just, some fucking toy for you to jerk around, or whatever? Well, I’m not! I’m a real guy who you’ve done some real fucked up shit to!”

“oh, okay. cool. you got some shit to say to me, huh. well, go ahead. let it all out.” The words themselves would invite just that, in a vacuum, but Benrey sneers at him and folds his arms and squares up to Gordon like he isn’t a head shorter than him. Everything about his posture screams, try it, asshole.

Unfortunately, Gordon’s feeling just confident enough (that is, stupid enough) to try it, and he snarls, “You cut off my arm, dillweed! Did you forget about that?”

“what? no i didn’t. you uhhh… you all goofed in the head, buddy?”

“Don’t call me ‘buddy’.” He says this through clenched teeth. “And don’t get all fucking pedantic on me, either! You were making all those weird-ass plans to hand me over to the goddamn United States military, you had to know what they were gonna do to me!”

“wasn’t my fault. i thought they were just gonna… ask you some questions,” he mutters.

That provokes a laugh out of Gordon, but not a nice one. More along the lines of incredulous. “Yeah, sure. Because the military’s known for just asking a guy some nice questions and letting him go. There’s no way you’re that stupid— no, wait, what am I saying? Of course there is.” His laughter continues, high-pitched and strung-out. “This is the same guy who asked me for a goddamn kiss after all the shit he put me through!”

“’m not stupid,” snaps Benrey, with more heat than just about anything else he’s ever said. “you’re stupid. lil’… tiny brain. ‘cuz you did kiss me, idiot. you kissed me a whole bunch of fuckin’ times. all mackin’ on me like, ‘ohh, benrey, i wanna fuck you so bad it makes me look stupid’—”

“Shut up,” he hisses, “that’s not even the same thing! God, you’re still not listening to me!”

“am too. hearin’ you say a bunch of real mean shit.” And with that, he turns and walks away, like he does every other time he checks out of a conversation.

For a brief moment, Gordon sees red. Then he takes a deep breath to tamp that blistering anger down as he follows Benrey back to the living room. “What— Where are you going— Okay, why shouldn’t I be mean?! I’ve been sitting on all this stuff for months, man, and you don’t even think there’s anything I should be mad about! Can you at least acknowledge that this fucking sucks for me?” Gordon asks, voice cracking at the end. Something hot prickles behind his eyes, and he’s not happy about it in the slightest. He blinks rapidly to will it away.

A long moment passes, in which Benrey turns to face him and his eyes jerk from left to right, like he’s being scanned. Then he says, “okay. sucks for you. sucks for me too, tho.”

“How in the world could this suck for you. You got everything you wanted! You got to harass me for three days straight, fucking, power-tripping or whatever, and you got to keep living your life like normal, and then, God, you got me to fuck you—”


Gordon pinches the bridge of his nose. “Did you not hear me, or did you not understand me?”


“Oh my God.” He’s not sure how long it takes him to breathe through his nose to say something shy of cruel, but Benrey just keeps looking at him with blank eyes until he does. “I said, I don’t know what about any of this could possibly suck for you. As far as I know, you didn’t even lose your job!”

Understanding clicks into place behind Benrey’s eyes. “you don’t even know nothin’,” he huffs, an uncharacteristic anger packed into each word. “wasn’t fun for me. it was bullshit, and garbage. you… all, pissy and mad at me all the time, blamin’ me for shit… was just tryna help. you don’t ever listen to me. shoulda just listened to me, then there wouldn’t be any stupid… resonance… whatever. i was just doin’ my job.”

“Blaming you? Why shouldn’t I? This is all your fault!”

“nuh-uh. can’t go blamin’ me for all your… uhhh… personal problems or whatever. i didn’t know they were gonna do all that stuff to you,” Benrey says. His voice goes high, almost like a whine. “didn’t… didn’t want ‘em to. made me feel all… bad. sucks. didn’t like seein’ you like that.” The last part comes out as a mumble. Benrey’s eyes drift to Gordon’s hand, to the scar spanning the circumference of his wrist. Something visibly churns in his face, like he's making a concerted effort to stay on track in the conversation. “wasn’t just me, tho. everybody else thought it would be a big funny ha-ha. laughs. gordon freeman rused in 1080p. bubby— bubby wanted me to slap you on the ass, even. all ‘buenos dias gordon’. didn’t wanna do that to you. thought you’d get all mad. but he… he got you all fucked up too, and you’re not mad at him. you’re not mad at nobody but me.”

That anger in Gordon’s veins boils down to a simmer, now that Benrey’s starting to operate on a level he can get behind. It feels less like he’s talking to a wall and more like he’s talking to a person. “Yeah, well, everybody else wasn’t hounding me the whole time we were stuck in Black Mesa. It was like you were doing everything in your power to fuck with me!”

Benrey shrugs, arms folded in front of his chest. His eyes still don’t meet Gordon’s. “i like fuckin’ with you.”

“See, this is exactly what I’m talking about—”

“gets you all sweaty. ‘n’ you don’t listen when i ask all nice and stuff. you wouldn’t gimme your passport. i was just tryna look out for you, man… the whole stupid time. like halo. cortana. they put her in the computer now so you can be helped in the real. not just video games. but… but gordo freemo don’t give a shit. he’s all, MIT brain genius, doesn’t need to listen to stupid benrey. goes off and fuckin’… gets himself hurt,” he says, voice low and clearly a little hurt himself.

Something about that stings. “I shouldn’t have called you stupid,” Gordon mutters. “But my point still stands, Benrey. You fuck with me so much that I don’t even know if you see me as, like, a real guy. With feelings! And not just, fucking, some kind of plaything, or jack-off material, or whatever it is I am to you, I don’t know!”

Benrey’s eyes shift, and he mumbles something that Gordon can’t make out.


“said you are a real guy,” Benrey gets out, looking Gordon in the eyes at last. He’s never seen a look quite like that on Benrey’s face before, one that he can’t parse but that makes his heart thump faster anyway. “you do all kinds of… real guy… stuff. it’s nice. good to watch. just… like it. ‘cuz i like you, idiot. but ion’t even know if you like me. you’re so fuckin’ mean to me all the time, god.”

Gordon stops in his tracks. Those words are strangely familiar, though this time, the context is so wildly different that it dizzies him. Doesn’t hit the same as hearing it while they’re tangled in Benrey’s bed. That aside, just as dizzying is the revelation that Benrey likes him. Like, for real, not as a joke. And not just as whatever bizarro sex fantasy Gordon had conjectured was living in Benrey’s head. (Look, that’s the whole reason he figured it was a joke in the first place. People don’t typically see Dr. Gordon Freeman and leap straight to thoughts of sucking his dick.)

Benrey keeps looking up at him. Like he’s waiting for something. Gordon’s not stupid - he knows what he should say. But when he opens his mouth, he finds it so difficult to just let it out. He’s been tamping this shit down for so long, even through the past few weeks of kissing him and fucking him and whispering ugly, ugly things into Benrey’s ear, that he can’t really remember when he started feeling it. It’s worrying to think that it might have been… longer than he thinks. That all the laughter and worry and frustration he felt while going through Black Mesa with Benrey were just a sublimation of something deeper. Something worse.

“I do like you,” Gordon admits, after way too fucking long. His voice cracks against his will, and he clears his throat, embarrassed. “That’s the whole reason why I’m trying to talk about this shit. And I'm, uh, sorry about the yelling. This has all been really fucking hard on me. I’m trying, okay?” He’s not sure if that’s what Benrey’s driving at, but it doesn’t hurt to just be nice for once. Guilt trickles down the back of his neck as he realizes that he really hasn’t been that nice to Benrey, like, at all.

Benrey’s eyes go wide. Then color starts to creep into his cheeks. “yeah, whatever. it’s cool. i uhhh… i like mean people.”

“Okay. Well. I apologized to you. Can you maybe apologize to me, too? You know, how this stuff is supposed to go?” Gordon suggests.

“oh. uhhh. yeah. sorry about the… arm. thing. and all the other stuff.”

It’s… not the apology Gordon wanted, exactly. In his ideal world, Benrey would have been more eloquent about it, at least. Maybe some more concrete acknowledgment of what, specifically, Gordon was pissed about in the first place. But he’s grown accustomed to the way Benrey communicates. Even if the words themselves are still distant and vague, Benrey’s making direct eye contact and worrying the hem of his shirt and fidgeting like he’s waiting for a hammer to come down on him. It’s something. He can work with this.

“That helps. Uh… thanks. I’m still kind of fucked off about everything, so don’t, like, take this as me saying that everything’s cool. Because it’s not. But, uh, for right now, it’s fine. We’re cool.”

“cool. we’re cool. uhhh… you wanna go smoke some weed and calm down maybe?”

“You know, I actually would like that,” Gordon says, strangely tired. That took a lot out of him.

This time, when they head back to the couch, Gordon feels surprisingly light on his feet. Like a weight’s been lifted off his shoulders. Maybe it’s not closure, exactly, but it’s close enough.

Benrey starts rolling up another joint, and Gordon watches again. What else is he supposed to do right now, anyway? He… he likes watching those hands work, okay. There. He admitted it. Gordon likes that they’re so careful in handling those flimsy little papers, even though they look big and clumsy from the outside. And he likes the way those veins and tendons on the outside of his hands pop out in sharp relief against the warm, orange light from the windows. They look like they've been well-used. Seen a lot of action. It's a lot different from the soft skin on the inside of Gordon's hands, an academic's touch.

Their hands brush together as Benrey hands it to him for the first light. Makes Gordon feel a little warm inside. Thankfully, taking a drag lets him hide whatever expression is threatening to crawl onto his face.

“’s good, huh.”

“What? Oh, yeah. Where’d you pick this shit up from?” He passes the joint back to Benrey.

“black mesa super strain, bro. top-secret varietals of kush. 420% thc.”

Gordon laughs at him. “That’s not even— that’s not even possible, man, what are you talking about.”

“it’s the crystals. they’re, uhhh… refractive. fractal. hyper-weed,” Benrey says. It just makes Gordon laugh even harder, so hard he gets a stitch in his side.

Once again, the tension of the last hour seeps out of him, and his shoulders sag in relief. They’re not even watching videos anymore, but that’s fine. Not having to focus his attention on anything in particular feels like a luxury. All Gordon wants is to stare at the ceiling, fractal popcorn patterns melting and folding in upon themselves in the waning light, and maybe take a long fucking nap. His brain feels like a worn-out piece of chewing gum.

“yo, uhhh. you wanna make this shit last longer?”

Gordon blinks at him. How long has it been since he passed it back? “Maybe? I don’t… know what that’s supposed to mean.” It's hard to tell if that's from the weed, or if that's just Benrey's natural imparsability at work.

“nice.” Benrey inhales deeply and holds it in. He doesn’t give Gordon much warning before he’s practically crawling into his lap, legs slung over Gordon’s, and then he’s tilting Gordon’s jaw upwards and mouthing at him to open up, smoke wisping from his mouth when he does.

Well, if he insists. Gordon does as he says, and Benrey leans in close, mouth just a hair’s breadth away from Gordon’s. Electricity crackles across his skin. After hovering there for a long moment, Benrey exhales, letting out that lungful of smoke, and Gordon breathes it in. It doesn’t burn quite as bad as it does straight from the source. His hands find their way to Benrey’s hips instinctively, and they’re soft and warm under his grip. Before he knows it, though, the moment has passed, and Benrey pulls away, though he lingers close to Gordon’s face. He can’t help but feel a little disappointed.

“Hey, gimme that,” Gordon says, after turning his head to exhale. (Something seems rude about doing it right in Benrey’s face.) Benrey stares at him, clueless, until Gordon takes his hand and plucks the joint from his fingers.

Like the rest of him, his hand is warm, too, but it’s rough and calloused where everything else about him is soft. A curious contrast. Gordon idly rubs his thumb across Benrey’s while he takes another hit. Then he pulls Benrey in close to repeat the ritual, a hand at the back of his head to get him right where Gordon wants him. He feels Benrey’s free hand slip around his neck as Benrey shuffles ever closer. Their position’s painfully intimate - there’s barely an inch between their bodies from toe to tip, and their lips graze against each others’ while Gordon passes the smoke to Benrey, and Benrey’s thighs tighten around his hips. Gordon takes a long, long while to draw back. He blinks slowly, and Benrey blinks back at him, just as slowly. Like a cat might.

“c’mon, bro. use it or lose it.”

Benrey’s voice cuts through his mental fog, and he realizes that he’s been sitting there an awful long time, just looking into Benrey’s eyes like he can find answers there. But there’s nothing, really. His eyes are dark, almost black, and they’re heavily lidded, and all Gordon can see there is a wicked intent. It makes his heart skip a beat. There was a time, once, when that look would have filled him with fear, but instead it causes something hungry to crawl into his gut and make a home there.

So Gordon uses it. The joint’s burned down low enough that he can feel the heat on his fingertips, so he takes one last drag before tucking the remainder into an ashtray. It’s a bit of a stretch to reach it, and Benrey doesn’t make it easier, choosing to stay right where he is. He chooses to leave his hand in Gordon’s, too. Gordon lets the burn die out in his lungs before he draws Benrey close again. And this time, when he breathes out and feels Benrey’s mouth brush against his, he closes that distance and presses their lips together at last.

Benrey groans against him. That hand at Gordon’s neck scrabbles at his nape, tugging some of his hair loose. Even with smoke loosely billowing from his mouth, Benrey’s still so fucking good to kiss, meeting Gordon with a unbridled enthusiasm. Like he’s been waiting for this all day. Hell, he probably was. He kisses Gordon, over and over, until they’re barely drawing apart in between and his tongue is darting out experimentally for a taste and he’s pulling Gordon’s hair free of his ponytail to hang in a shaggy mess around his shoulders. Gordon squeezes Benrey’s hand on reflex.

“god, what are you,” Benrey gasps in those brief moments where he pulls back for air, “some kinda homo? lil’— lil’ gay boy, holdin’ my hand, fuckin’, like you like me or sumn, huh—”

“Don’t make me say it again, man,” he says, trying to be stern. It’s hard when Benrey’s pressing his lips to the corner of his mouth. Then his cheek.

There’s breath at his ear, and then Benrey mutters, “c’mon. why don’tcha. just admit it, queerbait.”

“Fucking, God.” Gordon closes his eyes, but his words don’t have a lot of bite to them. He marshals that embarrassment bubbling in his stomach back down before he humors Benrey, and says, “Yeah, I like you, okay? Isn’t that obvious by now?”

Benrey buries his face against Gordon’s neck, and shudders, hard. “n… nice. cool. say it again.”

That gives Gordon pause. He… really likes hearing that, huh. That knowledge sits strange and heavy in his chest as he hesitantly says, “I… I like you, Benrey. I wouldn’t be doing this shit with you if I didn’t.”

There’s pressure on his skin, and a wet heat - Benrey licking a broad stripe up the cords of his neck. Heat coils in Gordon’s belly. It’s followed by words, muffled and indistinguishable. Gordon has to strain his ears to make them out, which is a tough task when he’s both high as a kite and horny as a debeaked headcrab.

“like you,” he hears, “so… fuckin’ much, always liked you, stupid… stupid laugh, makin’ me feel all weird. all pissy, red-faced, red m&m lookin’ ass… ‘s good. good to look at.”

Gordon’s free hand drifts lower, first palming the sharp lines of Benrey’s shoulder blades, then coming to rest on his hip. “Who’s the gay one now,” Gordon snorts, though it comes out a little breathy.

“you are. gayden freeman.”

“We don’t have to keep playing this game, man. We are fully in the shit now.” To prove his point, he lifts up Benrey’s hand, threading his long fingers between Benrey’s thick, calloused ones. “It’s whatever. It’s not a big deal.”

“whoa. you, uhhh, gettin’ that sweet character development, huh… 5 outta 5. graphics are kinda shit, tho,” Benrey drawls in his ear. Gordon tries to hold back both a shiver and a laugh, and fails miserably at both.

“Yeah, yeah, keep talking shit. I’m not the one who was talking about how good my hog looked, or, fucking, whatever it was you said the other day. Your dirty talk could use some work, you know.”

At that, Benrey mumbles something into his ear that makes his face burn like he’s pressed it against a hot stove. Well. Maybe it needs less work than he thought. Gordon’s fingers clench into the soft flesh of his side. Suddenly, he pulls back, and Benrey’s the one taking Gordon’s hand in his now, a broad thumb sweeping across his palm. “why you doin’ this so much. didn’t think you were this… uhhh… whatever. gay for me.”

“Uh.” His stomach jolts, and his thoughts stop like they’ve hit a brick wall. The scrape of a dull thumbnail against his skin is… so much more intense than he thought it would be. “L-Look, we’ve already established that. Don’t read too much into it.”

“huh? you’re gettin’ all… sweaty.”

Benrey gets both of his hands into the equation, exploring the creases and planes of Gordon’s palm with curious fingers. Gordon shudders against his will. His bad hand’s always been more sensitive, you know, after Everything, but he hadn’t thought that it would affect him in ways beyond ‘swearing a lot more when he accidentally closes a drawer on his fingers’. Benrey’s rough skin catches against his own, much softer by comparison, and sparks race up his arm. “I’m not! It’s just, uh, it’s kinda hot in here.”

“uh-huh. gordon freeman tellin’ fibs again. gordon… lieman.” His brow screws up in thought, and then his face lights up as he blurts out, “gordon fakeman. ha ha.” Benrey’s fingers work their way in between Gordon’s to touch the thin, translucent flesh there, and he can’t help the harsh breath that punches its way out of him. “think you uhhh… think you like this shit, bro. you some kinda hand guy?”

“I-I dunno? Look, it’s just, it’s… my hand’s… uh, the nerves are all fucked. It’s sensitive. It’s not funny, so don’t fucking laugh, okay.”

“wasn’t gonna.” Instead, Benrey lifts Gordon’s hand closer to his face, inspecting it. His face wrinkles again, like he’s thinking hard about something, then he looks directly at Gordon and licks Gordon’s index finger from base to tip.

Gordon jerks.

A toothy, malevolent grin slowly spreads across Benrey’s face. He lets his long tongue hang out of his mouth, like a warning, before wrapping it around that same finger and lapping at the webbing in between.

“Shit,” Gordon breathes.

It’s just as intense as the last time Benrey did this, all hot and wet and dripping around him, and when Benrey takes his fingers into his mouth, Gordon can’t help but cover his face with his free hand out of sheer embarrassment. God, he’s, he’s really got his number, Gordon thinks bitterly, and Benrey knows it, too, if that smug fucking look on his face is any indication. This time, though, there’s nowhere left for him to go - Benrey’s got him pinned to the couch, and he just has to sit there and squirm while Benrey pushes him into laying flat. Then he shimmies forward so that his legs frame Gordon’s chest, his ass pressed firmly against Gordon’s dick. Which is, uh, misbehaving. To put it lightly.

After a pointed look at Gordon, Benrey sucks, and Gordon’s legs jump, and the noise that he lets out is closer to a whimper than anything else. Lightning lances through him so badly that he swears he sees it flash behind his eyes. His face broils as he stammers out something like “oh my God”, but less comprehensible.

Benrey’s tongue lolls out again when his mouth parts, and he breaks away to lick Gordon’s palm, a broad, wet stripe left behind. “look at you,” he rumbles, “all, fuckin’, fucked up, huh. ‘cuz of me. whatcha gonna do about it?”

He doesn’t know what to say to that. That possessive curl to Benrey's voice gets his breathing to go all funny, and he has to carefully measure it so as not to pass out. God, why is he like this?

That tongue curls again, hot and wicked. It maps the faint wrinkles of Gordon's fingers, his palm, flicking across those life lines like he's trying to commit them to memory. Gordon pants, open-mouthed, against his free hand. It was at this point last time that he jerked his hand away from Benrey's mouth, back when he had a modicum of control over the situation. Now, he doesn't. He's given it all up to Benrey. And Benrey seems delighted to make use of it, looming over him with wild eyes as he wraps his lips around Gordon's fingers fully.

"Don't bite," he says frantically, "don't bite, Christ—"

Benrey attempts to say something, but his mouth's a little full, so it comes out as more of a mpphh mmff mm. Gordon's whole body tenses from the shockwave of arousal that rocks him. It tingles like nothing else. At the base of his fingers, he can just feel the pinprick pressure of Benrey's sharp teeth, but he doesn't bite. Instead, he laves attention on Gordon's fingertips with his tongue, as if to reassure him that he won't do it. (Gordon's not sure if he's actually attempting to reassure him, as opposed to just doing everything in his power to get Gordon to rut upward against his ass, but he's choosing to believe that this is the case.)

Then that suction envelops him again, and he's so, so fucking hard right now. It's gonna kill him, he's gonna pass out, he can't take the white-hot jolts that keep twisting his belly and going straight to his dick. Gordon's never felt so sensitive before. And no matter how much he wriggles under Benrey, it's impossible for him to extricate himself. He's just too big. Too strong. Sure, if he really wanted to, he could ask, but the thing is, he doesn't think he wants to. Being pinned in place like this dizzies him. Abdicating control like this. It's… it's good. It's really good.

“B-Benrey,” Gordon chokes out, legs shaking, “it’s, it’s too fucking much, man, I’m gonna—”

Benrey pulls off of his fingers again with a wet pop. “what? you gonna come or sumn?”

Gordon nods furiously, unable to bring himself to say it aloud. It’s just, it’s embarrassing, okay? Coming in his pants like he’s a fucking teenager, without even being touched, just from Benrey mouthing at his hand… Mortifying. Anxiety spikes in his blood. What's his problem? Even when Gordon's crossfaded to hell and back, he still can't turn off that part of his brain, the one that's got a valve connected directly to his adrenal glands and is permanently stuck in full flow. He sucks in deep breaths through his nose in an attempt to chill the fuck out.

“Don’t stop,” he gasps at last.

Benrey looks down at him with a determination that shakes him to his core. And he doesn’t stop. He presses his own palm flat against the front of his sweatpants, where they’ve tented considerably, and he takes three of Gordon’s fingers into his mouth and wraps his tongue around them, and he groans loudly enough that Gordon can feel it all the way through his arm. More than just the raw physical sensation alone, Gordon’s reminded of that mouth working its magic on his dick, and the groan that reverberated through his spine when he had Benrey on his knees for him. He thinks about something like this, like fingerfucking Benrey’s mouth, but different, an imitation of something cruder. He thinks about working his fingers inside Benrey like this. Making Benrey whine for him again. Making him beg.

Stupid thoughts, really, when his own mouth is spitting out “please, Benrey,” like he’s going to die if Benrey stops sucking. He might die if Benrey doesn’t stop, honestly. Both options frighten Gordon in ways that he can’t fully articulate. It worms its way out of him in the form of high-pitched noises that make his ears burn, humiliated by his own desperation.

Then that hand slips into those sweats, pulls out his dick, curls around it as Benrey rocks into it, just a little. And Gordon stares. It's not fucking fair, he thinks, how good he looks like that. Rutting into his own hand, the curve of his stomach just barely peeking out of his shirt. Outside of his uniform, he's less of an undefined square shape and more of something supple, muscle cushioned by soft flesh that Gordon's dying to dig his fingers into. But he can't - his face is on fire, and if he drags his hand away from it, he thinks he'll die of embarrassment. It's a coping mechanism as much as anything.

"c'mon, gordonnn," Benrey says as he draws back, voice low and mocking, "you wanna come for me, don'tcha, wanna come like a lil' bitch, all— all desperate, huh, c'mon, c'mon—" And then he's diving back in, mouth burning wet-hot and so, so slick, flicking the tip of his tongue between Gordon's fingers, and Gordon moans aloud, and, yeah, he's gonna, he's gonna—

A strangled noise bursts out of Gordon as his hips jerk upward, rocking without rhythm, and he comes in his boxers with nothing more than the heavy pressure of Benrey against his dick. Stars pinprick the edges of his vision, and quiet obscenities spill from his mouth like water from a breached dam. Benrey makes a filthy sound against him as he pulls off one last time.

"fuck," groans Benrey, "yeah, good shit. good." He trails off into mumbled nothings while he pumps his dick with a swiftness, dropping Gordon's hand so that he can push up his tank top instead. Dizzily, Gordon wonders why, until Benrey's letting out, "oh, fuck, gordon," and repeating his name over and over as he comes, spilling all over Gordon's stomach in thick white streaks. Then he smears his come into Gordon's skin. His breath comes out in short, ragged bursts as he does.

All Gordon has the energy to do is to lay there, dumbstruck. First there's a hand on a stomach, and then there's a hand in his hair (hopefully not the same one), pushing it out of his eyes. Benrey gazes down at him with the same wide-eyed expression Gordon's come to associate with This. 'This' being, you know, fucked out of his mind. Gordon blinks up at him in turn. His limbs feel so heavy, he's not sure he would be able to move even if he wanted to. Which he doesn't. Benrey's weight on him is weirdly comforting, and he's half-tempted to close his eyes and drift off, just like that. All the spunk he's covered in notwithstanding.

Then Benrey slides off of him, or to be more precise, to the side of him, and manhandles Gordon around so that they're pressed together from chest to hip. Gordon lets this happen. He has no objections (well, he would prefer it if he could clean himself off, but that would take a level of mental brainpower that he is not currently operating on), and Benrey's arm slung over him feels nice. His soft, broad torso pressed against Gordon's back feels nice, too. Gordon mumbles something unintelligible, but his brain's already taken its leave, and it's not much longer before he passes out in Benrey's grip.

Gordon Freeman's eyes pop open some hours later, in the greyish light of the morning, and his heart races. He's late, he's going to be fucking late and it's not even his second week on the job and his alarm didn't go off, Jesus Christ, why didn't he set his alarm—

And And he can't move, he's stuck, did he get sleep paralysis? Now? Of all the possible days? This is why he shouldn't stay up late watching people play video games, he ends up passed out on his couch and having weird dreams and now he can't move his limbs, can't extricate himself from whatever phantom force is pinning him down

Wait. He doesn't have a couch. Gordon stops trying to move and starts trying to think. It's hard when his brain's still kicking into gear, heavy with sleepiness and the afterglow of smoking his brains out and oh. Right. Benrey. He's at Benrey's place. He's on Benrey's couch. And that's Benrey's arm clutching him tight, Benrey's legs tangled inextricably with his. Which means that it must be Saturday (or maybe Sunday, if he's really unlucky) and he doesn't actually have anywhere to be right now. God, he hasn't been back to the grindstone for 5 goddamn days now and he's already having anxiety dreams about it. He lets out a deep sigh. Then he shuts his eyes again.

This feels… different, somehow. From the last time he woke up at Benrey's place. Last time, he woke up giddy, surging with endorphins, high on the novelty of having touched another human being for the first time in months. The comedown was equally harsh. Now, Gordon doesn't feel excited so much as he feels, well, squeezed-out. That nervous tension's no longer threatening to snap at any moment, held at bay only by the thrill of getting his dick sucked or whatever. Because it already did snap, dipshit. Yeah, yeah. Details. The point is, Gordon's genuinely at ease with The Situation for the first time since he first started playing Street Fighter with Benrey.

Maybe he'll lose his shit again later, when he's awkwardly tugging his dress clothes back on over his stained undergarments. Gordon can't discount the possibility. He is, unfortunately, neurotic beyond belief, and he has come to accept this about himself. But for right now, he's pretty content to scoot just a little closer to Benrey and pass the fuck back out. They're, like, Something now, right? That's gotta count for something.

Gordon drifts off to sleep again to the sound of Benrey's steady breath in his ear. That asshole was definitely projecting when he said Gordon snores, he thinks, just before it overtakes him.

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