“Maybe we can go there together when all this is over.” Simmons finishes his thought casually.
Together. It rings in Grif’s ears a little too much, the only part of the “conversation” he’d actually caught, half asleep until that word went and dragged him out of it and shook him to attention.
It’s something he’s thought of before, really. I mean it’s not too uncommon for war buddies to want to move in close to each other, or even together, right?
And it's not like the rate at which he considers it is too weird either. I mean he’s in the middle of a war (sort of,) who’s to blame a soldier for clinging to the idea of a happy future? And if his currently happens to include Simmons, what of it? It’s not like it's all that unusual to not really have any plans that don’t revolve around your teammate/maybe best friend.
Grif feels he’s free to brush it all off as too much time spent alone together and a lack of there being anyone else in his life. And Simmons...well, he doesn’t know what Simmons tells himself, but Simmons hasn’t said anything about it except his comments here and there about what they might do together after everything, so he bets they’re on the same page.
And maybe Grif stares a little too long and a little too closely at Simmons’ back during the designated time in the base’s communal showers, musing over how many freckles Simmons had and where he got them. Who’s to say?
And maybe they both volunteer to be in each other’s company way more often than is actually required of them. And maybe they sit up at night talking existentialist bullshit more often than not, half drunk or completely sober, and Grif ends up laughing harder than he does with anyone else, because Simmons laughs just as hard and the sound of it makes him inexplicably happy.
But that’s all normal, totally explainable shit, like….like….well, it just is.
Which is why, Grif tells himself as it happens, he has absolutely no reservations leaving these assholes.
“I quit.” He says, easy as pie. Because he hates all of them, every last one, equally. No matter what weird dynamic forced-closeness and sexual repression had caused in them.
He has every right to leave, too. As someone so preoccupied with getting the happy ending he deserved, and tasting just the beginning of it, the last fucking thing he was about to do was throw himself into another fucking “blue adventure.” He did not need that shit, and he didn’t feel bad in the slightest about leaving and keeping his happy retirement to himself.
Or at least, that’s what he continues to tell himself for days. And then those days turn into a week, then that week into two weeks, and then, and then….one day he can’t tell himself that anymore. On that day, he can’t get the thought to finish without it physically hurting. Not that the pain was new, it had been ever present since the moment he had been left alone. A constant dull throb, perhaps loneliness, perhaps regret, perhaps something else. But it had built and built in him all these weeks, to the point that the hurt was stronger than his denial.
And thinking of Simmons….that was a sharp pain. It was a blossom in his chest like a bullet wound seeping blood, the pain spreading and spreading until it reaches his limbs and he can’t move them to get out of bed. And he can’t lie to himself about it anymore.
He tries to make it stop instead.
He thinks of every time he and Simmons argued. Every time Simmons did or said something unbelievably annoying, (Remember how Simmons always forcefully neatened your stuff so you lost everything because you could never find it again? Remember how he would always insist on you being wrong and him being right over fucking everything, his face flushing red with irritation and voice getting squeaky and shrill? Remember how he used to police your smoking, stealing your cigarettes and complaining about “his” lungs? And even about that time he switched to the fucking blues?) but it doesn’t help.
Hardly any time has really passed, but he still misses Simmons like a lost limb (oh the irony,) and that makes it entirely too much time.
But he’s still Dexter Grif. Not once in his life has he succumbed to emotional weakness. Hell, nine times out of ten, he can’t be made to even acknowledge the presence of those emotions.
So he doesn’t cry. He doesn’t wallow. He gets right down to business to fix his problem.
Can’t miss people who aren’t fucking gone. He thinks to himself, finishing the last painted volleyball.
And I’m going to tell this Simmons exactly what I fucking should have before, because I’m not only lazy, I’m a coward. Not fucking anymore. Look what it’s gotten me.
And it’s fine. It’s good. Everything is just like fucking normal now, thanks.
Only it’s fucking not, and he does actually almost shed those stifled tears when he sees Locus and his ship. The only thing that stops him is his complete mortal terror and half the belief that he was hallucinating the whole thing.
He opens his mouth and word vomit spills out. He can’t keep track of his own thoughts, darting this way and that, like they had for a while now as a survival tactic to keep himself not focused on Simmons. Only that’s not necessary anymore.
“Did you touch Simmons? Did he talk to you?” he finds being shot out of him amongst his flurry of questions, the most important one of all pushing through. What did he feel like? I need to touch him again. I need to hear his fucking voice. I need him to be real, right here. He finishes his desperate questions to himself, switching to something else out loud because, hey, he may be slightly unhinged and talking to volleyballs, but he still has some dignity left.
And the word “friends” passes his lips and wow, ok, that’s actually what they are, aren’t they? He hopes they’re okay, despite the worrying message. They may be annoying as shit to be around and he may actually hate them, but he doesn’t actually want anything to happen to them. And he may have...maybe, slightly, missed them, too. But it’ll all be good, because he’s going back. He’ll see them all again. He’ll see Simmons.
He feels like he’s been given a second chance, and he’s determined as hell to do the right fucking thing for once. God, he’s such a fucking selfish asshole. He wants to apologize so badly it feels like a physical need, and the apology burns on his lips the whole way back, desperate to come out. He’s so fucking sorry. They need to know. Simmons needs to know.
Fuck. You really need to stop thinking about Simmons. He chastises himself.
So he does. He babbles. And he knows he’s being annoying as hell, but it works. You can’t focus on Simmons when you’re too busy thinking of the next question, the next topic.
But then, oh then they’re there, and Simmons is so close. He literally cannot wait to get himself caught, which is a thing he absolutely never expected to think to himself ever.
And Simmons. Simmons is right there in that room, standing right behind those bars in the room he’s escorted into.
“Simmons!” bursts forth, and he hears “Grif!” like an angel’s choir. Which may be a touch dramatic for most people to think, but that’s just the state he’s in right now.
I have to say it, He thinks. Fuck everything else that’s going on. They have to know. So he says it, those words that have been bursting out of the forefront of his brain all these weeks, but he only manages to get past Caboose’s personal apology before they shut everyone up with the revelation about Church.
It’s a blow. Not to him so much, Church was always just an asshole to him, and then later some weird ghost computer thing that was still a colossal asshole, but it is to Tucker and Caboose. He stays quiet and lets them have their moment, even though he’s itching to have attention to himself and his thoughts again.
He doesn’t stay still though. He shifts over to the bars separating him and Simmons as he waits for Locus to come get them with Wash and Carolina, and he casually leans against them so his hand falls through the bars from the way he’s angled.
And Simmons, holy sweet mary, thank fuck, does exactly what he wants him to do. He shifts that way as well and lets his own hand fall inside of Grif’s.
Something inside of him feels like a water balloon filled way too much, ready to burst, and he closes his fingers around Simmons’ a little bit.
Did you touch Simmons? Reverberates in his brain again as he thinks, yes I did. I am. He’s right here and he’s fine and I’m not alone and when we get out of here, he’ll still be right there and I can touch him whenever I fucking want. Grif and Simmons, the dynamic duo, back at it again, side by side, just like it should be.
He talks to Simmons, asks him what’s been going on. Despite the hand in his, Simmons’ tone is a bit clipped, reciting events like they were a regularly scheduled report given to a superior officer. He doesn’t take much notice though, still too giddy over the hand in his and just fucking being back.
When Locus comes to get them with Sarge, he can’t help but express his joy over the current setup, inwardly laughing over Caboose squeezing the hell out of Locus and practically glowing with the sheer hilarity of the knowledge that Sarge most definitely would have made Locus play rock paper scissors to decide who should take command.
When Sarge starts professing his daring plan to rescue them all along, Tucker calls out his bullshit. Good on you, Tucker. He supports mentally.
Then Simmons responds to Tucker’s extreme proposition to leave Sarge there, and his reproach sounds far less detached than the voice he had been using to speak to Grif with just earlier. It forces a frown on to his face with the realization.
When they make it to Wash and Carolina, Grif is as shocked and concerned as everyone else, but he sees the way Tucker is suddenly all coiled tight with worry, and he feels bad for him. He couldn’t even imagine.
Then they start talking about their plans, and Grif feels a rush of adrenaline. This is it. This is my chance to make up for it.
“Count me in!” he interjects, almost too eager. Everyone is probably gaping at him beneath their helmets. Carolina voices her doubt in what she just heard.
From his left, he hears Simmons too. “Count me in.”
He stares. He doesn’t know what Simmons is thinking, but a big part of him is hoping Simmons said it because he wanted to stay with Grif. Simmons doesn’t look back at him.
As they depart and start walking, their group consisting of himself, Simmons, the reporter lady, and that weird, irritating cameraman, he asks about their apparent doppelgangers. Simmons seems riled up enough about this “Gene” to speak to him normally, his voice getting high pitched like it does when he’s upset, as he exclaims how annoying he is.
When the other two eventually walk away to check something, he’s left standing alone beside Simmons, the room getting quiet.
This is your chance, ok, deep breath. He psyches himself up. But before he can open his mouth, Simmons does first.
“You seemed really serious about leaving.” He says, like it’s uncomfortable to recall. Fuck . It probably was.
Grif feels a wave extreme unease wash over him, and suddenly he doesn’t want to have this conversation anymore, despite his desperation only a few hours earlier.
“I was...a little heated.” he hedges. You’re doing it again, you fucking coward.
“I thought you were gone for good.” Simmons’ voice, oh god, it sounds so hurt. Grif hates himself a little more.
“Yeah, that was definitely the idea.” he admits.
“What...what changed your mind?” Simmons asks, like he needs to know.
Grif panics. I’m not ready! I can’t say it! Fuck!
“I don’t know!” he spits in a rush, all defensive, and oh fuck you Grif, that’s not what you wanted to say.
But it’s too late. Simmons responds “Okay.” like he’s disappointed, and Grif doesn’t know what to fucking say after that.
They’re both staring silently, Grif at a loss for words, and Simmons like he’s half waiting for something else.
Then he sighs. “Tucker, Caboose, Sarge, fucking Donut; Simmons, I hate those guys.” But not you, his brain supplies, though he can’t get that out either. “...I mean really hate. But holy hell, did shit get boring without them.” By that I mean I fucking missed you guys. Goddammit.
“And I figured, you know, without me to beat up on, y’all were doomed to fall apart at the seams. I’m your hate glue.” And that’s definitely not his whole reasoning, but it’s true at the core. I knew you guys needed me and I felt like an ass for leaving.
Simmons still sounds like he was looking for something else, but he says “Well, I’m glad you’re back.” anyway.
“It’s good to see you too?” he responds like a question, because Simmons didn’t sound like that’s what he meant, and he’s dodged everything he wanted to say and this is not going how he planned, and it feels awkward now.
“Yeah.” Simmons says, amplifying the awkwardness.
“Yeah,” he answers, wanting this scene and the awkwardness to leave, “Good to see you too.” That’s a fucking understatement.
“Yeah.” Simmons parrots, and Grif can’t help doing it right back again. “...Yeah.” And then-
“Uh, dude? What the fuck are you doing?” he demands as he notices that camera guy edging slowly towards them, camera clearly rolling.
“Don’t mind me!” he says blithely. “I’m just getting in position for the kiss .”
And something in Grif boils over. He’s frustrated he couldn’t get out what he needed to say, mad that he couldn’t bring himself to admit what he’d he needed to which had caused this whole mess from the start, and beyond angry that this little twerp was fucking filming his total failure.
He doesn’t consciously think about throwing the punch, it just sort of. Happens. Apparently Simmons feels something extremely similar, because both their fists connect at the same time, putting enough force to knock the guy out.
“Simmons, that’s fucking it! I-”
“Grif, you fucking asshole, you-”
Both their mouths snap shut when they realize they’re speaking over each other, starting at the same time.
“You first,” Simmons sniffs, sounding peeved, presenting it like a dare he’s clearly expecting Grif to chicken out on.
Grif takes a deep breath and carefully removes his helmet, letting Simmons see his face before he starts again.
“I lied. Okay? I lied. I came back because I missed you guys, I fucking missed you, so much it hurt, and I realized what an asshole I’d been and that I needed to tell you guys I’m sorry and try do the right thing.” He licks his lips as he takes a pause to catch his breath, rambling confession too fast paced again. “And I am. Trying to do the right thing, and also I’m sorry. So fucking sorry.”
Simmons takes his helmet off then too, and Grif can see him processing it all.
“So you…” Simmons begins, like he’s filling in puzzle pieces to the incomplete picture he’d had, “...came back essentially because you were bored, like you said?” Simmons doesn’t sound happy.
Grif’s irritation from just earlier flickers back a little stronger and he huffs. “No, didn’t you hear what I just fucking said? I came back to fix what I did.”
“Only after ‘what you did’ hurt yourself , not out of a sudden burst of self righteousness!” Simmons voice escalates, and okay, are they really doing this?
“Did you even consider how what you did hurt us? ” Simmons continues yelling, the “ hurt me ” fully implied instead by his tone at the end.
“Of course I fucking did!” Grif snarls back, provoked now. “That’s why I apologized!”
“No!” Simmons exclaims. “You apologized so you could stop feeling bad about yourself. You’re still as much of a selfish dick as you’ve ever been!”
“Fuck you.” Grif growls. “I have a right to that anyway, do you have any clue how bad I’ve actually felt these past few weeks?!”
“ You?! ” and oh, Simmons isn’t yelling anymore. His voice breaks on that word, and oh shit, he looks like he’s gonna cry. Grif, in an instant, becomes acutely aware of how this conversation has got out of hand. You really are a selfish asshole.
“Did you even have trouble leaving at all?” Simmons asks, voice more calm, but shaky with impending tears and a note of resignation.
“I-” Grif tries to answer, but he feels stumped. What am I supposed to say?
He takes a very deep breath, and runs his hands through his long, curly hair.
“Not at first.” He says honestly. “Or at least I told myself I didn’t. I was lying. Simmons, that was the biggest mistake I ever made.”
Simmons stays quiet now, but he’s listening. Another deep breath Grif, you gotta fucking do it this time.
“Not because I abandoned everyone. Not because I wouldn’t go looking for Church. Not because I was only thinking of myself. Yes, that made me an asshole, but that’s not why it was the worst thing I’ve ever done. I’ve always been an asshole.”
Simmons snorts at that, but doesn’t otherwise interrupt. Grif feels jitters all through his limbs, and he doesn’t feel like he’s inside his own body as he keeps talking, like none of this is actually real.
“It was the biggest fuck up because I cut you out of my life.” He hears Simmons’ sharp intake of breath, but he doesn’t stop. Not now. “I was lying because I couldn’t admit to myself that I was actually willing to follow you anywhere you fucking went, even if that meant giving up the happily retired future I wanted, and it scared me.
“Do you know how many times I thought of the future I wanted?” he asks like a rhetorical, because he knows Simmons does actually know. “I wanted to be away from danger, I wanted out of this army I never fucking asked to be in, I wanted to be happy and away from ANY of these fucking pricks that fucked over our lives and used us like pawns.
“And I didn’t fucking notice, or maybe I actually did and wouldn’t admit it to myself, but you were there in every single one of those scenarios I had of it.” His eyes are closed now, and he can’t bear to open them and see what facial expression might be on Simmons’ face.
“Then when I was in that place, without you for the first time in fucking years, I realized everything I had fucking given up.” Grif brings his hands to his face in shame, mortified at how cliche and sappy his speech was turning out. “And it’s super dumb, but I’ve got pieces of you stitched into me all over my body, and maybe that was just an early hint from the universe I wouldn’t take at the fact that we aren’t supposed to be separated.”
It’s deadly quiet, and Grif takes a moment to calm himself and get over his embarrassment. “And I’ve been fucking vibrating out of my skull with nerves and the need to let you know this, Simmons. And I have no idea how you’re going to take it, but let me say it again before you tell me: I’m. Fucking. Sorry. I don’t care if that doesn’t fix things and you still think I’m a horrible person, I’m still sorry.” He licks his lips again, staring at the ground and refusing to make eye contact.
Then, fast enough that it almost gives him a heart attack, he feels arms come around him and squeeze. His first impression is oh god, he’s still angry and now he’s trying to choke me, but then he realizes, oh my god no, he’s fucking hugging me. Oh my god, oh my god.
He feels a burble of something coming up his throat that could either be a giggle of relief or maybe a goddamn sob, but it doesn’t get a chance to pass his lips before he hears Simmons whisper:
“I thought you knew. I thought you knew that whole fucking time, and that you were rejecting me when you left.”
Grif stays very still and waits for Simmons to keep going. He doesn’t, and Grif recognizes that it’s apparently his turn to speak.
“Um…” he tries to say lightheartedly, with a little laugh like he knows he’s an idiot. “Knew what?”
Simmons backs up from him then, only an arm’s length away, and Grif has to resist the urge to go “No wait, come back, don’t stop!” but he keeps his mouth shut.
Simmons peers into his face, looking probably for some hint of Grif lying again, or some sort of mockery. Grif just appears innocently confused.
“You...really never picked up on any of those hints, even in the slightest?” he sounds like he doesn’t believe it, and Grif scans his brain for whatever Simmons might be talking about.
Simmons makes a choked off noise in the back of his throat. “Fucking seriously? Were you... Are you that fucking deep in denial that you can’t see?”
Grif just wants Simmons to stop talking at him like he’s an idiot and fucking spit out already what he actually means, though the rising lump in his throat clues him in that some part of him might possibly have an inclination where this is going, even if he won’t bring those thoughts to surface.
Simmons’ brow wrinkles like it does whenever he’s presented with a problem that is a little more complex than he’s typically used to.
“Grif, what do you feel about me?” he quizzes.
Grif raises and eyebrow. “Uh...didn’t I just say? I don’t wanna be without you. Bros for life.” He cocks a grin and bumps his fist with Simmons’ shoulder, and somehow it feels like that was the wrong answer, only he also feels like it shouldn’t have been.
Simmons frowns. “Why?” he prods.
Grif shrugs. “I dunno.” He answers, not examining himself for the actual answer.
Then Simmons says it. That thing that had been dancing around the back of Grif’s brain, teasing him with an idea in the corners of his thoughts, just out of reach for him to grasp.
“Grif, I fucking love you. I am in love with you , and I have been for a long time.”
And like the flash of a camera going off in his face, Grif feels stunned. All at once, memories like movie reels play through his mind, breaching the surface of his brain where he’d buried them.
He recalls all the times Simmons actually talked about them having a future together. It wasn’t subtle. He talked about moving in together maybe, propositioning it that one time with a little hesitation, like he expected Grif to say no. He hadn’t. So Simmons’ kept talking about it. He even - goddammit, Grif, you stupid oblivious moron - brought up a “one bedroom apartment” that he knew of near his favorite book shop, and Grif had merely waved his hand at him and gone “Yeah, yeah, add it to the list of places to consider.”
And that wasn’t all. Simmons’ would do things after that, little things, that made absolutely no sense for him, but Grif somehow managed to dodge thinking about that fact at all. Things like buying him cigarettes, and snack cakes, and giving them to him with a small smile like it made him happy to give Grif what he wanted then, and not like it actually pained him like Grif knew full fucking well it also did.
He thought of all the times Simmons sought him out, even during their blessed few hours of permitted alone time, just to talk with him. He remembered every time Simmons had stayed late into the night talking, just to fall asleep in the same room with him.
Hell, he even notices now how it was just the slightest bit odd that Simmons stole his sweatshirts so much and wore them to fucking bed.
And then he thinks of himself, and when he told Simmons he was leaving, and for the first time fully considers how that would had most likely affected Simmons.
Fucking hell, I am the literal god of selfish assholes. He berates himself, in a daze and barely understanding everything.
But if Simmons...had feelings for him, and he hadn’t fucking noticed...what hadn’t he noticed about his own feelings?
And it slams into him like a train at full force, knocking the breath from his lungs and bulging his eyes in disbelief. I wanted to live together with Simmons too. I searched him out just as much as he did me, and I fell asleep in his room half the time. Hell, I even bought him that calculator that one time. Dear god, I’m in love with fucking Dick Simmons. My guy best friend, my bro, my pal.
And he doesn’t think when he opens his mouth, the shock and failure to fully process so much information at once not allowing him, so he utters. “What the fuck. I’m fucking gay.”
Simmons, who had been standing there watching Grif’s face morph between so many facial expressions as all this happened, teetering on the edge as he waited for reproach, drops his jaw; and then instantaneously dissolves into loud peals of laughter.
He laughs and laughs, face turning red, hunching over his knees, until he literally drops to the floor and rolls a bit, still fucking laughing.
Grif doesn’t find it at all appropriate, or even funny. Actually, he’s sort of forgotten how to breathe and the room is a lot smaller and huh, is this what an actual panic attack feels like? Grif sinks to his heels, knees crouched, hands holding onto either side of his head as he rocks a bit.
“Oh my god. Oh my god I’m gay. I’m actually gay.” He chants to himself, as Simmons keeps on laughing and rolling around beside him, sounding like background noise in his ringing ears.
Simmons starts strangling off into choked wheezes, and suddenly Grif is extremely annoyed at apparently how hilarious his actual gay crisis is to Simmons, the insensitive bastard, and he wants him to shut the fuck up.
He doesn’t think about it past his intertwining thoughts of “Shut him up now,” and his still running mantra of “I’m gay for Simmons, I love Simmons,” so his body apparently decides to interpret that as “kiss him.”
So he does. He leans right over Simmons, face upside down, and plants his mouth on top of the other one. Simmons stops laughing immediately. His eyes are wide, and his face frozen. Grif frowns into the kiss, processing somewhere that this is not how kisses are supposed to go.
He backs up, and takes in Simmons’ face now that it’s not contorted in hysterics. He doesn’t even have a moment to register exactly what he’s just done and how Simmons’ responded, before Simmons surges up himself, hand finding Grif’s cheek and pulling him back in for another kiss, a proper one.
Fuck, it’s so good. Grif feels like he did when Locus showed up, full of relief and happiness and completely taken over with the idea of touching Simmons. His lips are smooth and soft, probably because an anal guy like him takes the time to use chapstick every day, but Grif is far from complaining.
God, this actually is everything I had really wanted. How did I not fucking notice.
And Simmons is making noises, sweet noises, small moans like he’s desperate but still unbelievably satisfied that finally, finally. Grif tries hard to commit them to memory, because they’re the best fucking sounds he’s ever heard in his life. Fuck, he had been missing out on so fucking much.
Just as Grif closes his eyes and feels about ready to lose himself in it completely, Simmons tonguing at his lower lip, they hear footsteps coming back their way and they freeze.
Then Grif lurches up faster than he’s ever fucking moved in his life, scrambling for his helmet and his footing in one go. Simmons matches his speed, doing the exact same thing. They have just enough time to stand up properly and look as nonchalant as possible before those footsteps round the corner.
“...What happened to Jax?” Grif hears, and responds on instinct. “He slipped.”
He’s grinning inside his helmet, cheeks burning from the knowledge of what he and Simmons just did, and he’s willing to bet Simmons is too.
When Jax gets up (so that’s the fucker’s name,) they head out, Grif and Simmons trailing slightly behind. Grif slows his pace a little more than Simmons, and reaches out his hand to tangle with the one Simmons had hanging behind him. Simmons grasps his hand right back, and Grif’s face becomes sore from smiling so wide, like the fucking sappy idiot he apparently has been this whole fucking time. I am never fucking letting him go again.
And maybe after the current “blue adventure” has ended, after Simmons is well and ready to leave and retire, they find themselves back on Earth, in the same town, in the same building, in the same flat. And maybe it’s that one bedroom appartment near Simmons’ nerdy bookshop, covered in Grif’s mess and filled to the brim with a conglomeration of their things that are entirely unable to be separated into two different sets of possessions ever again; and maybe they spend a good number of the rest of their days there, very happy and entirely gay , together. Who knows?