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caught blue-handed

Chapter Text

Dexter Grif didn’t care.  Not really.  At least not until the third time it happened this week.  If he did it again, he might have cared a little bit-- nonono, no.  He was just… suspicious maybe?  I mean, what does Dick Simmons have to do that’s any better than talking about nothing with his, uh... favorite teammate?

(Because they weren’t best friends, or even friends.  Okay, he called him friend or buddy sometimes but whatever.  They just happened to be stuck together all the time.  And had some of the same interests.  And they got along pretty well, what with all the bickering and calling each other names that typically had a suffix of “-ass.”  But that was it.  And Sarge and Donut were complete nutcases in their own ways, and Simmons couldn’t understand Lopez, and the Blues were so… blue, same with the ex-Freelancers, so of course Grif would be his favorite by default.  It was nothing more than that; it was a logical, objective argument.  Simmons would appreciate that.)

Well apparently, something was better, because while they were talking about nothing, Simmons suddenly up and left.  Again.  For the third time this week.

Okay, yeah.  He’s definitely suspicious.  But being suspicious is a warranted reaction, given that Simmons is being more awkward and Simmons-y than usual.

They haven’t been on Iris for too long now, their peaceful retirement on their lonely little moon just beginning, with everything and nothing to do.  There aren’t too many locales for Simmons to run off to like that.  I mean sure, they have a whole moon to themselves.  But the guy couldn’t go too far or for too long without having some sort of panic attack, what with his crippling social anxiety that somehow makes him an ironically highly-strung introvert that is also completely reliant on others for all forms of validation.  Seriously, how does Simmons even function without him?

But being suspicious doesn’t mean he cares about it (the being-ditched-mid-conversation thing) or him (the nerd).  Really.

So that’s how Grif ended up spying on Simmons (okay listen, it definitely wasn’t spying, only calling it that to simplify things but that’s not what it was).

After an hour or two of not-spying, in which he may or may not have dozed off at some or several points in time, he finally caught sight of Simmons sneaking into Blue Base next door.  Apparently to do something better than talk to him about nothing.  Apparently something so much better that he’d drop him like a hat for the third fucking time this week.  Come on, Simmons.  Ditching him to hang out with the Blues?  Doesn’t he have standards?  Apparently standards that Grif doesn’t meet but the fucking Blues do?

So that’s how Grif ended up in their common area sitting on the shitty couch (that he and Simmons spent an afternoon rebuilding after Sarge tried to “convert the cushions to diesel”...?), watching some shitty old sci-fi movie (that Simmons suggested he’d probably enjoy), on their shitty ancient TV (that Simmons set up after Grif had groaned about a lack of entertainment that didn’t involve sleeping), tearing into his fourth sleeve of not-shitty-but-less-heavenly-than-usual Oreos (from a box that Simmons gave him earlier for no particular reason and where the hell did he manage to find them anyway?), bored and definitely not sulking or wondering where his teammate was, or who he was with, or what he was doing.  Fuck if he could still even call him a teammate anyway since it looks like he’s defecting to join the Blues again.  Yeah, yeah, “Reds and Blues” or whatever, it’s the principal of the thing!  Guess that loser is going through yet another shitty angsty teenager phase that he’ll totally deny after the fact.

Nope, he sure as hell did not give one single fuck.  Yep, Grif did not care. He was just suspicious.

Chapter Text

The first time it happened, Grif and Simmons were on patrol duty (because Sarge had a difficult time adjusting to inaction and they had nothing better to do anyway and Simmons was still admittedly enough of a kissass to humor Sarge’s long-running state of denial and/or senility).  “Patrol duty” meaning the two were in their full armor, leaning against a wall outside of their base while coming up with odd circumstances they would be willing to endure for a year for a lump sum of one million dollars.

“How would you be okay with that?!”

“Why the hell not?  If my dick glowed like a lightbulb every time I took it out, I could take a piss in the middle of the night without turning any lights on.  Completely worth it.”

“You realize you’d be stumbling around in the dark until you actually got to the bathroom, unless-- oh, no.”

“Oh yes, Simmons,” Grif drawled, a mischievous grin clear in his voice yet hidden behind his helmet.  “I’d whip it out and use it as a flashlight, like, all the time.  Think about it: 3am pantless pantry snack raids.”

“You’re so fucking disgusting, Grif,” choked out Simmons.  He stifled his laughter while imagining how ridiculous the heftier man would look with his pants around his ankles, shuffling down the halls with his hands full of Oreos and a 240-watt glowing Grif Jr. bouncing in front of him with each step.  (Wait, why was he thinking about it in that level of detail and why were thoughts like this always more endearing than disgusting like he sa-- wait ohgod endearing-- ?!)

In the miniscule time it took to screech internally while repressing the imagery far into the Thoughts That Were Never Actually Thought a.k.a. Secrets to the Grave part of his brain, Simmons halted when his eyes flicked up and squinted at a private message lighting up his helmet’s internal display from… Caboose?

[13:53] Caboose: hi simon!!!! uhh yea can u come over and help with our computer!! because church always sed ur the least dum red and that compoters r ur only frend! pleas thx u!]

Uhhh.  Huh.  Don’t see that every day.  And why wasn’t he messaging him on Basebook, especially after he went through the trouble of painstakingly replicating what he made on Chorus and improving the design?  See, this is the problem with setting up your own social media site.  Unless everyone is on board, then people are going to contact each other some other way.  Then you have to look at and update people from two different platforms, which is so inefficient and defeats the whole purpose!  Oh, duh, maybe they couldn’t use Basebook because their computer needed to be fixed and that’s why Caboose messaged him on their comms instead.  Sure, Caboose insulted him (well, it was really Church insulting him from the great beyond through Caboose by proxy, so it didn’t quite count), but by requesting his assistance, he definitely admitted the fact that Simmons is the smartest person here.  Considering this, the least he could do, nay, his responsibility as the completely-valid-since-it-was-stated-by-someone-else-whocaresifitwasCaboose smartest man on the entire moon is to help out his neighbors with lesser technical expertise.  Not like he was trying to impress them or anyone else; he was simply a nice, generous, knowledgeable guy agreeing to lend a hand.  It was probably something stupid like their monitor not being plugged in anyway, those fucking dumbasses.

“... I’unno about you, but if Donut was always around I might reconsider, but a million bucks is a million bucks, ya know?  ... Uhh, is there something on my visor?” Grif asked, tilting his head quizzically at the noticeably silent maroon soldier.  The maroon soldier who instantly stiffened when he realized that he was staring directly at his orange counterpart for a good two or three minutes, ignoring him while rereading the message and overanalyzing how his intelligence was in such high demand.

“I, uh, I have to go something came up okay later bye,” Simmons squeaked out, pushing himself off of the wall to hastily retreat to his room to grab a small toolkit and his mechanical keyboard (god knows those heathens are probably using the shitty $10 membrane one that came in the box with their outdated PC).

Heat crept up his neck as he quickened his pace to dodge out of the other man’s sight.  What an embarrassing waste of three minutes, staring at Grif without actually getting to stare at him and staring crosseyed at his fucking HUD instead.  (Okay, haha, that sounded kinda creepy but listen, when you have unrequited and one-sided feelings for a guy that you spent every day with for like 15 years, creepy things become normal things.  Like getting used to your grandma kissing your mouth instead of your cheek.  Not that he wanted Grif to do that!-- okay yeah habitual reaction, not denying it internally anymore but he sure as hell can and will deny it externally-- but he didn’t want Grif to kiss him like a grandma, that would be creepy.  Wait, what the fuck was he doing again?  Thinking about Grif gazing deeply into his eyes, pressing his warm body flush against his own aaand more thoughts to throw in the Secrets to the Grave dumping ground-- yeah… wait, what? No, right, running away.)

Grif’s helmet cocked to the side further as he studied the leaner man’s back as it rigidly rounded the corner of the base until he was out of sight.  “...Huh. Wonder if I made him uncomfortable with that last one.  Dude, wait… do his robot organs actually make his dick glow?!  Simmons, why haven’t you told me about this yet-- Simmons?!?”

----

Having retrieved some tools and changed out of his armor into a more comfortable pair of jeans and a maroon long-sleeved shirt, Simmons waited in hiding around the base for another fifteen minutes.  Once he could hear the snoring from Grif’s inevitable boredom nap, he slipped outside to make his way to Blue Base.  Even though the rainbow of sim troopers and Freelancers have been a joint force for a while now, and they weren’t in any sort of war, and he had literally been invited over, and it was fucking Caboose of all people that invited him, there was still an oddly ingrained sense of stepping into enemy territory.  Okay, “enemy” is not the right word... maybe asshole/dumbass (but not the Grif kind of dumbass, that’s different)/#BlueTeamDrama territory.

Simmons shifted his gaze across the rocks and hills in the surrounding area, expecting someone to jump him as he sidled up against one of the entrances of the other base, which was literally only five meters away from their own.  It was a socially- rather than danger-induced anxiety, worried about one of the Reds catching him more so than the Blues.  If he was caught tiptoeing to the other side, whoever saw would probably think that he’s going through some shitty angsty teenager phase like one of the few times he defected ages ago (and the first time was like all of like two hours, he had to keep reminding Grif-- it didn’t even count!).

He lightly rapped his knuckles on the metal door, nervously whispering, “Psst Caboose… Caboose-- I’m here, hey asshole, let me in--”

After a few more pleading mumbles with no response, he pressed his palms and the metal-plated left side of his face against the door to try and listen for any signs of life.  At the same moment, it abruptly opened and caused Simmons to stumble into a firm pair of forearms.

“Simmons,” Washington stated flatly with one slightly raised eyebrow, instinctively catching the cyborg by his shoulders before he could be headbutted in the chest.  “Nice of you to drop in,” he added with dry amusement, helping to stand him upright.

“Gahh sorry, shit--!” squawked Simmons, flustered by the contact.  He jumped a meter away and out of the other man’s grasp.  Seeing the ex-Freelancer relaxed enough to not be decked out in his space marine armor 24/7 was still something he wasn’t accustomed to.  Simmons noticed that the grey T-shirt and matching yellow-striped track pants he sported matched the getup of the shorter man behind him, although Tucker’s had some predictable aquamarine accents.

(Seriously, does anyone here know they can wear colors that don’t match their armor?  At least maroon is tasteful with like every type of attire since it’s scientifically proven to be a superior color.)

“Dude, the fuck are you doing sneaking around?  You know we’re, like, all basically living together anyway except for the different buildings, right?” Tucker teased and rolled his eyes, walking past the two through the open door.

“Yeah, but this is your base!” Simmons turned around and scoffed in defense.  “And Caboose asked me to fix your computer.”

“Oh sweet, FINALLY!”

“Tucker, it has literally only been half an hour since Caboose… put it out of commission.”

“Yeah, but I was in the middle of some pretty important business!”

“Right, poorly drawing genitalia on other people’s pictures and reuploading them is indeed important business.  We’re going out to run some laps, Caboose is down the hall.  Thanks and uh, good luck Simmons.”  With an apologetic smile, Wash patted his shoulder appreciatively as he stepped past to follow his workout partner outside.

“Dude, drawing dicks on Donut’s dumb face is always important.  Later, geek squad!”

Simmons watched the two disappear behind the door as it shut, closing his eyes and exhaling.  (It must be nice having a roommate who shared a common interest in keeping a routine to stay in shape, and you know, not just sit on the couch being a lazy jackass and make excuses for someone else to take out the trash or get something from the fridge or do some other minimal effort task that the fucking do-nothing fatass could do on his own but then he looks at him and says “please” with this pout and that turns into a lopsided grin of his and fuck he always caves after looking into his gleaming eyes knowing later in some roundabout way he’ll thank him and even though it’s never direct it still makes his heart pound and his face flush and--)

Taking another deep breath, Simmons shook his head and makes his way to the Blue’s common area where their computer is what holy god fucking dammit what in the actual fuck?!

“Uhhhhhhhhh Caboose… why is the computer dismantled and why the hell is there ketchup smothered on every single component?”

Caboose looked up, eyes brightening at the new arrival, happily sitting cross-legged on the floor amongst some absolutely destroyed remnants of an old desktop computer.

“Oh, hi Simon!  Yes, well you see, Tucker was busy doing something stupid and he said that the computer was making a weird noise, so I thought maybe it might be hungry because that is what my tummy is trying to say sometimes when it is making noises.”

“Remember Caboose, Simmons,” he corrected hollowly while staring at the wreckage in disbelief.  “So you… fed it ketchup.”

“Oh no, that would be silly.  I took it apart to find out where its tummy was.  But I couldn’t find it.  Yeahhh I dunno how the ketchup got there.  Tucker did it.”

“Uh… huh…”  Simmons groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose and shaking his head.  He’d have to find or build a lot of the parts himself since it appeared that in addition to the acidic condiment layering, most of the pieces were damaged pretty badly.  Sure Caboose is kind of a loose cannon (what an understatement), but how do you manage to snap a hard drive cleanly in half on accident…?

“It’s okay Simon, I can be your super awesome assistant captain and help you so you can fix it even better!  It’ll be so much fun!!”

Simmons let out an exasperated sigh, pausing for a few moments before muttering, “... Dick.”  After all the years of occasionally correcting his last name, he thinks it might be easier to start from scratch with one less syllable for the cheery manchild to remember.  Especially since it looked like he’ll be spending more time over here than he originally intended and it’s just one more annoyance he could try to prevent.

Caboose’s eyes widen, and Dick thinks he’s made a mistake.  Oh wait, did Caboose think that he was calling him a dick?  (The only one who ever uses his first name is Grif, so of course his suggestion might be strange.  Not that it meant anything special; it was merely another opportunity for Grif to make more immature jokes at his expense.  Not that he minded it or the sarcastically playful way he said it sometimes, though.)

“Err, uh, my name, Dick, just call me Dick.”

Caboose’s eyes widened even further, scrunching up immediately as a large smile formed.  “Oh! First I thought you were calling me fun nicknames like Church used to, which is very nice and makes me happy but also sad at the same time.  But now you are saying that I get to call you names, too!  That is very nice of you, Dick!”

“Um, no problem, Caboose… let’s just get started I guess,” Simmons suggested, sighing and shaking his head.

He asked Caboose to show him around, scouring their base for different scraps and supplies that could be used to remedy this utter clusterfuck of a tech support request, hoping he could find enough materials to attempt to build the machine from scratch.

----

“Where’s your best friend Grif, Dick?” Caboose casually asked as he and Simmons sat together on the floor, untangling and sorting out different types of wires.  A task Caboose could actually help him with that had a mid- to low-chance of destroying or catching anything on fire.

Simmons choked out a surprised sputter and cleared his throat, brought out of his meditative state he entered while enjoying the comforting task of color-coordinated organization.

“Uh, well, probably sleeping instead of doing something productive,” he replied, fixating back to his rat’s nest of wires and not bothering to correct the ‘best friend’ designation.  (He’s learned over time that Caboose has his own unorthodox beliefs of what being a best friend entails; he does not want to walk down that path of questioning said beliefs.)

“I don’t think Grif would want to help, anyway… he usually leaves duties like this to me.  And anything that requires effort in general,” he added with a soft, defeated sigh.

“Oh, that is nice of him to trust you with so many things.  He must think you are very good with important work and all of the things you do.”

“I somehow doubt that’s why he ‘trusts’ me to do everything for him,” Simmons said through gritted teeth.

“Yeah no that’s definitely it.  Sometimes Agent Washington trusts me to do certain things because he thinks I am the best at doing them.  Like picking up heavy boxes… and moving heavy furniture upstairs… and pushing heavy cars that are broken… and he always tells me good job and thanks me and sometimes gives me cookies!!”

“See, that’s kind of the difference.  Grif doesn’t do any of the last part.  Man, if he ever offered me an Oreo, I would expect to look up and see the Four Horsemen riding on the back of a rocket ship plummeting directly at me as a clear message of the impending apocalypse.  He’s an ungrateful, selfish, lazy bastard.  Real best friend material right there.”  (Christ, was he really fucking opening up to Caboose about this shit? Is there something in the water on Iris that only started to take effect this very moment?)

“You know, sometimes best friends are funny like that.  They make fun of you, they say mean things, they call you bad names, but they’re doing all that because sometimes they are too shy to tell you how they really feel.  But best friends are great because they find other ways to tell you!”

Simmons looked up to meet Caboose’s delighted yet percipient gaze.  He honestly doesn’t know how he’s kept up a conversation with Caboose for even this long, let alone one that seems obscurely meaningful.  And something oddly tightened in his chest with the last words the Blue had said.

Fuck it, he’ll walk down that path.

“What do you mean by other ways?” Simmons asked tentatively.

“Well… Your best friend knows you and what you like the best, and does things for you without asking for a thank you or sometimes they don’t even let you know they did it.  Yeah and sometimes they call you names if you find out about it.  One time, I was very sad after breaking the toaster after trying to feed it too much bread.  Then the next morning, it was fixed and there was toast waiting for me on the table for breakfast.  I hugged Church and he said some things to me that weren’t very nice and said he didn’t fix it and to stop breaking stuff… but I heard him fixing it the night before.”

In the wake of the vague explanation, Simmons drew parallels to more of his own experiences than he would have expected.  He remembered times where he tripped while trying to get used to his new leg after the cyborg surgery and Grif had called him a clumsy nerd, following it up with a smug grin and an outreached hand.  He remembered times where he went to bed cold and shivering after moving from Blood Gulch and adjusting to the less deathly-heated climate of Valhalla, waking up to an extra blanket draped over him, noticing Grif’s uncovered back facing him on the bunk across the room.  When he asked Grif about it, they got into an argument about the sleepwalking and blanket-stealing disorder Simmons was developing.  He remembered many, many times where they got into arguments, ones where lines were crossed, and after bitter silences that stretched for days they eventually shared a moment of self-deprecating humor to signify their forgiveness and sprung right back into their normal bickering dynamic.

(Well, shit.  Maybe Grif did care.)

“How do you encourage them to show you that they care about you more directly, though?” Simmons inquired, cringing a little bit at how attentively curious he sounded.

“Well that’s obvious, you have to do it first!  But it can be hard because best friends can be kind of slow and bad at feelings, so you have to keep showing them you care until they notice and yell at you.  You are smart, Dick, I am sure you will figure it out and be the very best best friend you can be.”  Caboose beamed at him before glancing down at a neat bundle of wires laying across his palm, expression turning darker at the sight.

“We should not use these ones for the copper wires.  This color is stupid.” Caboose tossed the handful of aqua-coated wires into their designated junk pile.

Simmons wore a thoughtful expression as he continued staring at Caboose before slowly offering a smile in return.

“Yeah, agreed.  Let’s use the orange ones instead.”

Chapter Text

Grif blinked slowly, awakening from his boredom nap.  He remembered why he was bored in the first place, realizing that he was still bored because he was now leaning against this wall outside of Red Base alone, because Simmons had hurried off earlier during their half-assed patrol.

Grif liked to think that he was someone who could keep himself preoccupied, but it was easier to be entertained when Simmons was around to make fun of.  It’s not like Simmons himself was particularly entertaining; the dude was totally boring. Yep, just a boring nerd.  Sometimes, Simmons said things that were so incredibly boring and/or nerdy about science or technology or movies, Grif couldn’t help but argue and laugh with (-- at, not with) him about it for the rest of the evening, sitting on the roof of their base, just the two of them, watching the unfiltered and glittering stars up in the sky deep into the early morning hours until the twinkling lights started to fade and mesh into the morning twilight.

Hah, yeah, stupid boring nerd.

So yeah, easy to make fun of, easy to pass the time, and Grif was born to take it easy.  Hanging out with Simmons just made logical and objective sense.  Simmons would appreciate that.  And Simmons didn’t seem to mind spending time with him and getting riled up by his mockery, too.  It was their system, and damn if it didn’t work pretty well for them.

Which is why it bothered Grif that their last interaction didn’t really work the way it normally does, what with the freezing up and skittering away from their conversation as quickly as he seemingly could.  Sure, that was typical socially-awkward Simmons behavior with other people, but that was with other people.  He didn’t want to ruin years of building up that finely-tuned system-- but screw talking about feelings.  Avoidance was always the better option when available, because it worked almost as well as the doing-something alternative and with way less effort.

Therefore, Grif made it a point to keep a mental note to not ask him about the light-up-dick-caused-by-cyborg-organs thing, no matter how curious he was about it, as that was clearly the problem here.  If the guy wasn’t so insecure, Grif would casually ask if he could see it when they were getting changed for bed later. (Nothing wrong with two dudes sitting half-naked on the same bed ogling one dude’s penis... for... science.  Yeah, science, Simmons would appreciate that...?)

----

Grif made the tactical decision to relocate his boredom napping headquarters to the couch in the Red’s living room after kinda/sorta/not really ensuring that no dirty, lousy Blues were scheming anything nefarious nextdoor. Changed out of his body armor into more comfortable sleepwear (What? Not like he was gonna do anything for the rest of the day.), he fell in and out of sleep with his helmet still on, which was streaming animal documentaries wirelessly from Lopez’s exabytes of bootlegged films and TV series stored in his cabeza.  It was difficult to get too comfortable with your head encased in metal and a tiny screen glaring two inches from your face.  But hey, it was better than nothing.  And it was infinitely better than going to the Blue’s and watching Reservoir Dogs on their rusty old TV for the millionth time.

As an excited 10-week old pug bounced across the display, Grif heard the front door slowly creak open.  He turned to face the noise, resting his arm along the top of the couch, chin over his shoulder to glance at Simmons entering the room.  Once noticed, he suddenly stopped in his tracks, about as stiff as the last time Grif saw him.  (GlowydickglowydickglowyDick?glowydickahhh just drop it, brain!)

"Hey, Dick."

Shit.  He said that way too casually and friendly, and he never says his name like that.  (It’s only when he’s being smarmy or when he’s messing with Simmons because he usually gets really flustered whenever he says his first name for some reason that he still hasn’t figured out but-- shit shit shit Simmons totally knows he’s obsessing about his dick-- not like that, though.)

Somehow, Simmons became even more frozen, and a heat began to engulf Grif.  He tried not to imagine how the freckled Simmons patch of his face probably matched the red taking over the entirety of the nerd’s own at the moment.

After what seemed like forever, Simmons coughed and broke his train(wreck) of thought, bringing up a hand to give half a wave to return the greeting.  He opened his mouth to say something (probably to talk about it since he knows shitshitshit), only to pause for a moment then shut it closed.

Simmons seemed to loosen up enough to remember to close the door and began to walk over to the couch.

“What’re you watching?”

Oh, right.  Why the hell was he worrying so much?  If Grif was considered the master of avoidance, Simmons was the goddamn inventor of it.  See, this is why their system worked so well.

“Dunno, fell asleep,” Grif shrugged and turned his head away, not answering too quickly as he reached up to his helmet to turn off his show.  And as if he’d give Simmons any ridicule-fuel about his preference for falling asleep to the Too Cute! Puppies TV series.  Not that it should be humiliating in any way.  He just didn’t feel like giving Simmons any potential handouts.

Simmons huffed and rolled his eyes.  “Of course you did.  Probably to more baking competitions.  Fatass.”

When Grif tilted his head and took a breath to return a snappy comment, he realized Simmons was hunched forward with his elbow propping himself up on the back of the couch, robotic hand extended along his jawline, cupping his face which was less than a foot from Grif’s own.  His opposite arm was resting flat across the top of the cushions to support his weight, completely flush against Grif’s arm, the back of their hands pressed lightly against each other.  Simmons leaned forward so that he was basically hovering over him, head cocked to the side to fixate his gaze where Grif’s eyes were located behind his visor, raising an eyebrow, a slight wrinkle forming on one side of his mouth.

He was really, really, really close, and it wasn’t necessarily uncomfortable.

The details burned into Grif's mind before he registered Simmons’s look as one that expected a typical witty retort.  In his effort to deliver one, Grif produced a strangled noise as if he meant to respond with, “Huh? ” but pitched about three octaves higher than intended.

(Grif had a lot of questions.  Like, uhhh, what the hell...?  Did they really get comfortable enough that being this close was normal now?  And touching?  Hell, not just touching like tapping his shoulder or whatever but like touching-touching?  Without Simmons getting riled up and insecure?  ‘Cause Grif definitely wasn’t insecure or getting riled up about anything.  Also, considering their faces were so close, it was hard not to objectively notice how admittedly kinda badass the glow of his mechanical eye was, and how completely lost he was getting in the stunning deep blue sea of the other.  And Simmons just had this look, like, like, he knew he was being smooth-- he was probably fucking with him, yeah, that fucking asshole!  When did Simmons learn to be fucking smooth?  Hold up, back to the main issue: was this normal, the touching thing, and it standing out enough to question it?  No, he would have remembered being turned on like this before if Simm-- wait, turned on?  The fuck?)

After a vaguely successful repression of the thought regurgitation, Grif regained his composure to weakly croak out one of his usual complaints.  “Hey, it’s not my problem there’s a complete lack of entertainment at the base aside from sleeping.  Plus it sucks watching all of my completely masculine sci-fi B movies on a screen the size of a Poptart.”

Simmons’ eyes lit up, continuing to study Grif’s visor intently (Grif was acutely aware of the action of the other man’s eyes for some reason).  “Oh, have you seen the one that’s like a horrible Star Wars knock-off, but where the cast is played entirely by robots except all of the droid characters are humans dressed in dinosaur costumes?  It’s a real shitshow.”

“Uh, no, but that sounds like a steaming pile of garbage that is definitely going on my watch list.”  (Familiar topics made it easier to set sail to Denial Island and never look back.)

Simmons shot him a grin, then jumped to stand up straight, placing his hands boastfully on his hips.  “Well, you’ll be glad to know that I recently discovered a solution for your binge-watching woes.  Give me a couple of minutes.”

Grif watched with bemusement as Simmons left from whence he came.  He slouched forward to pull off his helmet, setting it down on the couch next to him before sighing and flopping back into the cushions.  Today was super fuckin’ weird.  Maybe there was something in the water on Iris that nobody bothered to check and it was only starting to take effect this very moment.  (At least Simmons seemed to be in a better mood, anyway.)

As promised, Simmons returned a few minutes later and held the door open for Caboose, who carried a massive, centuries-old (but in remarkably good condition) flatscreen TV into the room and placed it on the table in front of their couch.

“Oh holy shit, dude, no way!  Where’d you get it?!”  All weird thoughts were thrown out the window.

As Caboose opened his mouth to speak, Simmons sharply elbowed him in the gut.

“Found it, don’t worry about it,” Simmons blurted out, scowling at the confused Blue at his side.  He waved a remote control in his hand.  “I already configured it to hook up to Lopez’s brain server.  You’re welcome.”  Simmons unceremoniously threw the remote to land on Grif’s lap.

Grif was way too elated to give two shits about exactly how Simmons managed to obtain the glorious artifact.  He had the sudden urge to embrace Simmons for a few minutes, without Caboose around of course.  (Okay, maybe not all of the weird thoughts were gone.)

Simmons leaned over to whisper something to Caboose, who nodded with a smile and responded by yelling, “Yes okay, see you later, Dick!” before excitedly waving goodbye and exiting their base.

Grif stared at Simmons.  Then at the door. Then at Simmons.

“Uh, dude... did Caboose just call you a dick?” Grif asked with a snort of amusement.

Simmons forced out an abrupt laugh.  “Guess so, probably hanging out with Tucker too much,” he muttered, dismissing the insult from the person that: 1) doesn’t like hanging out with Tucker, 2) almost never has curse words in his vernacular, and c) has rarely been witnessed to purposefully insult anyone besides Tucker.

A little red flag with the word suspicious written on it waved in Grif’s mind for a moment before he shook his head.  He was just glad that whatever the fuck was happening earlier had dissipated so they could get back into their usual dynamic.  But he was substantially more glad that they had a brand spankin’ new old TV.  He should probably thank Simmons for that or something, since he really was appreciative.  Teasing him was the easiest way around saying sappy stuff like that outright.

“I could kiss you right now, Dick,” Grif said, overtly sarcastic.

Simmons stared at him, overtly serious.

“What, saving your first for your Leia cardboard cutout?”

“Oh shut up, Dex.”

... He kinda felt odd when Simmons said his first name like that.  Wonder what that’s about.  Probably the same reason the other guy got ruffled by it.  He’d figure it out one day if he cared enough, just to make it easier to fuck with him.

“... Do you wanna watch something?”

Simmons answered by stepping forward, moving Grif’s helmet to the floor, sitting down next to him, and stretching across him to press the power button on the remote in Grif’s lap.

----

Grif awoke the next day, letting a sleepy smile slip from his lips as he thought about how excited he was for the binge marathon he had planned to do tonight with Simmons.  (Whoa okay, “excited” is too strong of a word. It would objectively be more enjoyable watching movies with Simmons.  The few times they’ve done this in the past, Simmons always made a running commentary about details only a crazed superfan would know about.  Which was sometimes interesting, but mostly provided another effortless way to give him a hard time.  As such, it always resulted in mocking Simmons enough so that Grif's entire focus ended up on the nerd and not the film.  That’s why when Simmons suggested watching the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy extended with additional credits in one night, he said yes without hesitation.  Yep.)

His not-excitement faltered when he remembered the other responsibilities he needed to take care of prior to this evening.  After yesterday’s constant interruptions of getting harrumphed at by Sarge for being lazy good-for-nothings, kicking Donut off the couch saying there wasn’t enough room to have three dudes on it (to which he whined, “There’s plenty of room, I bet we can even fit four guys at once!”), and unspokenly ignored by Lopez, Grif decided he’d show his gratitude to Simmons for getting the TV by ensuring their totally chill dude hangout time wasn’t interrupted by their annoying basemates.

Yep, Dexter Grif was going to actually make an effort for someone else’s sake.  Although, he could deny that it was purely for someone else since he’d benefit from it, too.  Simmons should be thankful he’s got such a great... friend?  Yeah, friend.  They were definitely friends.  Grif could at least admit that, considering the guy somehow got them a TV after complaining about it for a whole month.  That was his only merit, though.

It shouldn’t be that hard to get the others occupied and out of the base for the night.  If it required too much effort, he’d make Simmons do it, but that kinda defeated the purpose he supposed.  The hardest thing was making sure he didn’t get asked why he was convincing them and raise suspicions.  Grif sure as hell didn’t want anyone getting any sort of ideas.  Especially with how everyone reacted to Caboose finding them in the closet after the whole Temple of Procreation thing, when nothing even happened.  Not that it was anyone’s fucking business, anyway.  Saying they gave each other a “hand” or that they straight up banged or any of the other shit Tucker implied would have been less mortifying to admit than what actually happened.  But that’s a story for another-- well, never, because he and Simmons shortly agreed that they wouldn’t talk about that.

Grif groaned and rolled out of bed, ready to tackle another day full of bullshit.

(Better be worth it, whatever that means.)

----

The first and easiest stop was Lopez.  Lopez was a robot of few words, and more importantly, words he didn’t understand.  Mathematically speaking, one-sided conversations take half the effort.

Grif walked up to Lopez, who was laying underneath a Warthog that he had been bored enough to take completely apart and reassemble that morning.  Or maybe it was routine maintenance.  Grif didn’t care to know or question the robot’s way of life.

“Hey, Lopez.  Stay out of the base tonight.  We’re having a party and you’re not invited.  I’m sure there’s another Puma over at Blue Base that Caboose has broken in the last 24 hours.”

Lopez didn’t pause his work or bother sliding out from the vehicle to respond.

“Te escuché idiotas anoche.  Ustedes van a tener una cita romántica.  Probablemente donde ambos se comportan como niños tomados de la mano por primera vez.  No necesitas decirme dos veces para evitar ese desastre.” [“I overheard you idiots last night.  You guys are going to have a romantic movie date.  Probably where you both act like children holding hands for the first time.  You don’t need to tell me twice to avoid that disaster.” ]

“Glad you understand, buddy.  Sorry you couldn’t make it.”

----

Next on the list was Sarge.  A more difficult target, but feasible nonetheless.  The old man only liked being around Grif to harass and/or physically harm him but otherwise wanted nothing to do with him.  And like a true member of the Red team, one of Sarge’s greatest weaknesses was talking about feelings or anything too personal.

Sarge was on a stool in the kitchen, scowl hitting his lips against the cup of coffee he held the moment Grif walked into the room.

“Morning, sir.”

“... Whaddya want, dirtbag?” Sarge said, scowl intact.

“Uhhh, food?  This is the kitchen.”

“You can’t pull the wool over my eyes, son.  I can smell trouble from a mile away.  And it smells like... orange.”

“Yeah, sure, you caught me.  Not sure how you can smell a color, but whatever,” Grif remarked sardonically.

“I meant the fruit, numbnuts!  What citrus-filled, crooked plot are you a-hatchin’, and what kinda bullets are you gonna be a-catchin’ when I find out what it is?”

“Simmons said--”

“Wrong answer; it’s shotgun bullets.”

Grif groaned.  Why did Sarge have to always be so... Sarge?

“... Simmons said he needed to talk to me about how he feels, in Red base, tonight.  Specifically, unresolved issues with his dad and his self-esteem.  Prolly will take until the morning; there’s a lot to unpack.  We were going to--”

“I’ll be gone by five o’clock,” Sarge stated bluntly.  He took another sip from his coffee and refused to make eye contact with Grif for the rest of the day.

Two down, one to go.

----

Donut: the final boss.  Grif was not looking forward to this.  It was going to be one hell of a coin toss.  Donut generally didn’t mind his own business and was a gossip connoisseur, but he could work that to his advantage if he was convincing enough.  Plus, he could probably kill two birds with one stone and get Donut to distract the Blues at the same time.

Grif let out an exasperated sigh before reluctantly knocking on the door to Donut’s room.  As it creaked open, Donut’s eyes went wide, sparkling with delight upon seeing his visitor.

Grif!  Oh, you never come to see me while I’m in my room!  Oh, oh, you’re going to tell me something exciting, I can feel it!  Come inside the ‘Donut Hole’ and fill me up with something juicy!”

Christ, Donut, do you really have to call it that?” Grif cringed as he stepped into the lightish-red clad man’s room.  It was about as well-kept as Simmons’s space (as if anyone could be more anal and meticulous), but decorated... actually pretty tastefully, minimalistic and clean.

“So, what can I do ya for?  Let me guess...” Donut offered him a devilish smirk, as if he already knew everything Grif came to supposedly gush to him about.

“No, Donut, no guessing.”  Donut pouted.  “Listen, I heard... that Wash was talking about how dry Carolina’s skin is, and that they needed--”

Donut cut him off with an upheld index finger and a quiet laugh.  “Oh, Grif.  You can’t misdirect me with proper moisturization advice.  I know what this is about.”  (Shit, he knew he should’ve gone a different route with this.)

“What did I say about ‘no guessing’?”

“It’s not!  You need some time alone with Simmons.  Don’t worry, I get it.” Donut winked and gently patted his arm in warm understanding.

Grif blinked, then narrowed his eyes.  “You talked to Sarge.”

“Yes!  He said you were going to get all deep into Simmons’s--”

“You know, I’m gonna stop you right there.  We’re just going to be sitting on our asses to watch some TV and talk about nothing.”

Donut stared at him, a hopeful glint in his eyes as if waiting for the, “And...?”

Grif knew that honesty could only get you so far in life.  And with Donut specifically, having a flair for romantic theatrics usually helped sell a lie long enough to send him reeling into his own strange fantasy world and get him out of his hair.

“... and,” he emphasized to meet Donut’s expectations, “I’m going to teach Simmons how to slow dance since the loser never went to prom.”  Well, the last part was technically true.  The most believable lies come from half truths, after all.

“Oh.  My.  God.  That is so sweet!  Are you going to lead or is he?!   Please tell me you’re going to post pics!”  Donut was over the moon about his clichéd, never-gonna-happen scenario that Grif had never thought about before, ever.  (Dreams didn’t count.  You know what they say, can’t really pick and choose what your brain comes up with when you sleep.  And Grif slept a lot, so with lots of sleep comes lots of dreams.  Therefore, any of the numerous ones that may have included Simmons didn’t really mean anything.)

“Yeah, very personal and touching moment for him or whatever, so you’ll avoid the base until tomorrow?” Grif rushed, hoping to end the conversation before Donut could complicate anything.

“Sure thing!  I can do a sleepover with the Blues.  Let me message them on Basebook.  They’d love to hear what--”

Nothing about this leaves this room.”

Donut leered at him.  “So what do I get in return?  My premium is pretty high for keeping everything so tight.”

“You can plan the wedding,” Grif deadpanned.  Theatrics.  Joke's on him, he didn't say whose wedding.  Not that he was inferring a specific one; that just seemed to be the kind of thing Donut has always dreamed of doing.  And speaking of dreams again, just to reiterate for no particular reason, nobody has control over their ridiculous dreams or how frequently recurring they were.

Donut forced Grif to sign a document with himself as a witness to ensure that he upheld his part of the completely absurd and fake deal that would never see the light of day ever again.

And that makes it three.  Done deal.

Grif tries to ignore the fact that he wasted his whole morning with a bunch of idiots, just so he could spend a normal evening with another (far less idiotic) idiot, something he shouldn’t have really cared about.  But he guessed he does care, considering Grif did an effort.

(Hope it’s worth it, whatever that means.)

----

Grif sat upright on the couch that was spacious enough for two guys but not three, The Fellowship of the Ring paused at the zero second mark, bouncing a leg in his pajama pants anxiously, impatiently.  He wondered when Simmons would get there, and how he would look, how close he’d sit to him; you know, normal things to consider when you’re casually spending time with a friend.  What they’d banter back and forth about, how they’d trade smirks when they horribly imitated a character’s accent, how they’d reach into a snack bag at the same time and muse at how flustered Simmons gets; normal things.  He really wanted to melt his brain with some movies.  Yeah, that was it.  So where was Simmons?

Keeping himself preoccupied as he is so expertly capable of (even without Simmons), Grif left the common area to travel to the kitchen, not thinking about where Simmons was.  Food was a good way to not think about stuff.  He grabbed a bag of popcorn and threw it into the microwave.  It was pretty nice of Kimball to totally set them up with their new bases and all of these supplies, even if she couldn’t include every item from the 30-something page list of ingredients and prepackaged foods he had Simmons help him organize into a spreadsheet by meal type, cuisine, and Grif-approved craving level.

After popping three more bags, Grif gathered them into his arms to bring back to the couch.  He set all but one down on the table, plopping back into the cushions and opening the steaming bag in his hands.

“I don’t think I’ve seen you this on time for anything, ever.”  Simmons greeted him from the doorway leading into the hall where their rooms were located, hands full of fabric, wearing the black shorts and maroon tee he usually wore to bed.  He threw a blanket across his lap, followed by a couple of pillows which landed neatly in place.  The leaner man seemed to be good at throwing things into Grif’s lap.  He keeps a mental note about that for some reason.

“I don’t think I’ve seen you this late for anything, ever.”

What?!” Simmons sputtered, clearly offended at the accusation tarnishing his punctuality.  “It’s exactly seven o’clock!”

“First of all, if the clock said seven when you got here, it means you were already late by a few seconds.  And I got here before you, even had time to prepare us a nutritious meal.  You need to get your shit together, Simmons.  I didn’t realize you were such a slacker,” Grif said pointedly with a smirk, enjoying the rise he knew he could elicit from him.

“I would hardly consider microwaving ‘preparing a meal’, and for your information, I’ve been busy while your lazy ass has probably been sitting here all day doing nothing!” Simmons countered defensively as he sat down on Grif’s left side.  He reached over to take one of the pillows to place behind himself, as well as half of the large blanket to unfold across his legs.

“Busy doing what?  And for your information, I haven’t been here at all today.”

“... Nothing.  Now that you mention it, I haven’t seen you in the base.  Not like I care! ... So what were you doing?”

“... Nothing.”

“Okay then.  Not like I care.”

“Yeah, you said that.  So now that we’ve established that we both did absolutely nothing, let’s continue the pattern like the slackers we are.”

Simmons responded by reaching over Grif’s body to press the play button on the remote control sitting on the opposite end of the couch, grabbing some popcorn from the bag Grif was holding on the way back.

----

The night continued as expected.  Mostly.

Simmons asked why Grif made so much fucking popcorn, and Grif answered that the other three were his but he was willing to share some of it.  Grif’s idea of sharing was throwing unpopped kernels at his cyborg arm to make a small clink sound against the metal.

Simmons asked Grif if it was a lot more quiet in the base than usual, and Grif threw more kernels at his arm, commenting that the movie and the clink were the new noises in the base and he just wasn’t used to it.  Simmons yelled at him, saying they were going to get ants.

Simmons asked if Grif was aware that the dwarf’s actor was over six feet tall and needed a body double in many of the shots, and Grif wasn’t, saying that the guy must’ve had a huge dick because he was “reverse compensating”.

Simmons asked if Grif knew where the other Reds were since it was suspicious that they hadn’t interrupted at all like yesterday, and Grif shrugged, saying they were probably throwing a party and the two of them weren’t invited.  They both agreed that it would be completely okay if that were the case.

Grif asked Simmons if his metal leg had some sort of cooling mechanism because the blanket was getting fucking hot and he was overheating, and Simmons said to give him the entire blanket then because he was cold.

Grif asked if he was cold because of the cooling unit in his robot parts, and Simmons groaned and told him to shut up.

Grif reached down under their shared blanket and grabbed Simmons’ ankles, quickly hoisting his long legs up to sit across his lap, forcing Simmons to lay along the length of the couch.

Grif, what the fuck?!” Simmons yelped, turning shades darker within seconds, barely noticeable in the dim glow of the screen.  Grif still noticed it.  “Holy shit, why are your legs so warm?”

“I fucking knew it.”  Grif let out a contented sigh as the cool steel (and bare skin from Simmons’s other leg, which was also nice for some reason) settled across his quads, noting that the cyborg didn’t struggle or recoil back to his original position.

“Just take the blanket off if you’re hot!  Stop using me as your personal cooling system!”  His protest seemed pretty half-hearted, as Simmons adjusted to lay more on his side to face the TV better, and reached for more popcorn, as if this positioning was entirely normal.

Because, as Grif had established earlier, it seemed like touching-touching may now be the norm.  (Also, since they were in this position, it was hard not to notice how firm the butt propped against his side felt-- objectively speaking, of course-- probably because the nerd still bothered training, and it wasn't bony like he expected... wait, was he expecting to feel up Simmons’s ass at some point?)

“Nah, I’m comfortable where I am.”  Grif crossed his arms behind his head, giving a sidelong glance and forcing down the start of a grin that threatened to form.

“Whatever, asshole,” Simmons murmured, meeting his glance for a moment before darting his eyes back to the screen.

Simmons didn’t move until he got up to get something to drink, after the first and second movies finished and the third had started.

----

Ironically, Grif was always the last to fall asleep in situations like this.  He chalked it up to being an experienced napper, a professional snoozer.  Being able to sleep on command didn’t mean he always wanted to, though.  Simmons was very much the opposite, as Grif had learned from sharing the same sleeping quarters throughout their past.  He’s seen all the nights of tossing and turning.  He’s heard the aggravated sighs, the punching of pillows, the shuffling of sheets.  Grif always felt something ease inside of himself when the silence turned to soft and relaxed breathing, his roommate finally exhausted to the point where sleep consumed him.

So that’s why Grif wasn’t really surprised that almost 10 hours into the night (well, now morning), he felt a weight begin to press more and more into his shoulder, decisively ignoring it until he felt the top of Simmons’s head rest against his cheek.

The scent of the strands of hair that fell across his face was pleasant, like, something that would be labeled as... Ocean Breeze, maybe.  It kinda reminded him of home.  (He wasn’t trying to smell his hair on purpose, but the proximity kind of made it hard not to.)

Grif pondered to himself, reflecting again on whether or not this was normal.  Or if it even mattered if it wasn't.

It must be because he’s tired.  But an ordinarily mute part of his thoughts decided to have a voice.  He just wanted to thank Simmons for the TV.  And for spending time with him, because it was nice, and maybe he should ask to do it again soon, they have a lot of time after all.  And he really wanted Simmons to know that he appreciated him.  But, you know, talking, and feelings, whatever.

... Harder to make excuses when your brain has liquefied from half a day of fantasy flicks and prolonged physical contact with someone currently resting their face against your own.

So Grif has an impulse, and leaned over to slowly kiss Simmons’s forehead.

(It definitely wasn’t a kiss.  It was, uh, a friendly sort of nudge, like, you know, how animals, uh, when they, something about instincts, yeah, don’t know how the fuck you’re gonna explain yourself out of this one, Grif.)

... Yeah, he’s definitely tired.  Fuck it.

Grif lets himself fall asleep, resting his head against his friend’s, as the hobbits make their way to Mount Doom.

(And yeah, this was worth it. Whatever that means.)

----

An alarm blared from the kitchen.  Grif instinctively shut his eyes tighter, hoping to cling onto sleep for a little while longer, but was jostled awake as a warmth quickly left his side.

God fucking damnit.”  The seething exclamation trailed off into the next room in a hurry.

“Ughhhh Simmons, make it stop...,” Grif grumbled, rubbing his face, tangled underneath the sheets.  He blearily peered up in time to see Simmons whisk into the next room.  The sound stopped moments later, and the frazzled-looking redhead appeared back into his view holding a maroon helmet.

“What kind of person sets an alarm when they’re retired?” asked Grif, looking up at Simmons with annoyed amusement.

“The kind of person that wakes up to actually do something except sleep and eat,” said Simmons, looking down at Grif with annoyed... something he couldn’t quite place.

“You forgot, ‘and binge-watch the hell out of the classics,’” Grif added with a small smirk, which stalled when he remembered the tail end of their night before he had closed his eyes.  (Let’s see, what was he willing to admit to himself now that he was sobering up from sleep?  He obviously still wanted to do this again, as it was another form of their usual talking about nothing but with added entertainment.  The normal-touching-thing was still under investigation, but he conceded it wasn’t really a bad thing.  And the other thing... yeah, not going there right now.)

“So, what d’you think would be a good series to follow up with?  I was thinking--”

“Not right now, Grif.  I need to get going.” Simmons sounded much more curt than usual.  Not his normal bitchy-serious self. (And when did he all of a sudden start having so many “things” he needed to get going to?)

“What, come on babe, you’re not gonna make breakfast before you go?” Grif hollered jokingly after Simmons, who was already halfway out the door leading outside.

The door slammed shut.

The base was a lot more quiet than usual.  No annoying idiots, no clinks, just a continuously looping fanfare from a movie title screen that had replayed who knows how many times at this point.

Grif rethought his intent to actually tell Simmons thanks, or the fact that he fucking kissed him when he was sleeping like a completely sappy fucking moron.

But what Dick didn’t know couldn’t hurt him.

Though, Grif felt a pang in his chest that felt pretty similar to hurt, for some reason.  He decided to ignore the feeling and distract himself by picking up kernels off the ground so they wouldn’t get ants.  (Not caring about shit sure made things a lot easier to repress.)

Chapter Text

The second time it happened, Grif and Simmons were simultaneously awoken by an alarm while cozily nestled together on the couch.

But before that point in time, certain events occurred that required Simmons to now figure out what the hell his next steps were going to be.

----

While working on solving the Blues’ computer debacle, Simmons spent the entire afternoon learning about the wonders of friendship from Caboose.  The guy considered himself a “best friend expert” and even talked about making a video tutorial regarding the whole conversation once he could use Basebook again.  Simmons mused that it’d probably end up being a guide on building death machines that shoot confetti.

Nevertheless, his takeaways from the discussion were as follows:

1) best friends are shitty at both telling and showing you how they feel (i.e., learn to read between the lines of Grif’s minimal actions),
2) being a best friend is shitty and usually means you have to show them you care before they show it in return (i.e., be direct, confident, and take initiative since Grif is too lazy to do anything), and
3) give your best friend lots of hugs (um... maybe “be more physical” to send the message since they were both inept at communicating feelings verbally).

(There may have been a minor replacement of the phrase “best friend” with “romantic interest” while Simmons was mentally taking notes, but he concluded the advice would still be applicable, and Caboose didn’t really need to know such a trivial detail.)

With this three-part recipe in mind and a nebulous plan formed, Simmons asked Caboose if they could take a break from organizing prospective components to try and revive an old flatscreen TV they found in their earlier scavenger hunt throughout the base.  Caboose surprisingly fixed it within half an hour almost entirely without his assistance, only asking for help holding some hand tools.  He guessed it wasn’t really surprising and had to give the Blue some credit; Simmons was more of a software kinda guy, whereas Caboose had built or restored at least two advanced robots-- “friends” in the time they’ve known each other.  Not a bad person to know when you’re part cybernetic yourself, and it’s probably why Caboose seemed to have an affinity for him in the first place.

Once they tested that the TV worked properly, Simmons attempted to sneak back over to Red base and set it up before anyone could notice, drafting out ideas for possible reveals about the new entertainment installation.  But Grif had no flair for the dramatic, so why should he care?

Lost in his thoughts, he failed to consider that Grif would most likely be in his typical lounging venue on the couch at the time, smack dab in front of the preappointed TV location.  (Was he seriously in his pajamas before they even had dinner? Of course he was, it’s Grif.)

Simmons froze halfway through the door when he saw the helmet turn to face him, mind racing about how suspicious he looked, how he could try and convince him to leave so he could make a grand entrance later, how he didn’t actually want Grif to leave, how--

“Hey, Dick.”

... What?  Grif never says his name like that; no underlying sarcasm, no stupid smirk, no bitterness at all.  (The only time he’s heard it said in that tone of voice was in his imagination, when he had one of those overly domestic thoughts like he’s having right now, where Grif would come home from work and they greeted each other with a smile and warm embrace and-- okay, nope, don’t think about this shit with him right in front of you.  Play it cool; remember what Caboose said.  God, did he really just think that...?)

Ignoring the blush taking over his features, Simmons reacted as smooth as silk, definitely not awkward in any way, as if nothing was out of the ordinary.  With absolute confidence the world has never before experienced, he waved his hand, made light conversation as they usually do, and walked up to lean against the back of the couch, nonchalantly resting his arm closely against Grif’s.  Yeah, nice-- that was direct and confident and he was totally fucking smooth.

Simmons wasn’t sure if it was intentionally or absentmindedly done, but Grif kept tenderly brushing the top of his fingers and knuckles against the back of his hand the entire time they continued their exchange.

(Holy shit...  Holy shit.  Was following suggestions from Caboose actually getting him somewhere?)

Simmons felt a rush of confidence, but didn’t want to push his luck.  He could use this momentum and show him the TV he put so much effort in getting (Grif didn’t have to know Caboose was the one that did most of the work), and thus more effectively be able to finally make a move (“be direct”) without it completely backfiring or him fleeing in embarrassment.

Simmons had the larger Blue bring in the TV, informing him under his breath that he’ll return the favor by helping to look for more parts in a couple of days.  Simmons was unable to keep his smile at bay as he saw delight shine across Grif’s face, pleased that his helmet was now off so he could admire the reaction in full.

When Caboose left and the door closed behind him, Simmons glanced back to the couch and locked eyes with Grif.

The mismatched dark brown and blue orbs held an odd glint Simmons had never seen before.

“I could kiss you right now, Dick,” Grif said, overtly serious.

Simmons suspected he might be reading too far between the lines, but he was willing to take the risk.  He walked towards Grif assertively, unable to contain himself after such an obvious and passion-filled advance from the Hawaiian.  He leaned forward to press his right hand against the couch above Grif’s shoulder, their faces close enough to feel each other’s heat.

Simmons called him on his bluff.

“Who’s stopping you, Dex?  Because I’m not.”

His voice was lowered to a sexy and husky growl as he matched Grif’s intense gaze.  Being direct was the only way to get Grif to understand and today, he decided, was the fucking day to be direct.

Grif didn’t miss a beat-- the suffocating tension that surrounded them disappeared instantly as he frantically grasped for the neckline of Simmons’s shirt, pulling him forward until their lips collided.  Grif’s parted without hesitation when Simmons’s tongue desperately and expertly pried at the entrance, and Grif was barely able to stifle a moan against the sudden intrusion.

As they deepened their urgent exploration of each other’s mouths as if making up for lost time (and hell if Simmons wasn’t going to try and make up every damn minute he could have spent doing this with Grif over the past however many years), Grif wrapped his free arm around the back of his legs, causing Simmons to let out a surprised yet completely masculine gasp as he was hauled forward to straddle Grif.  (About fucking time he got the hint, after all the times Simmons had thrown things into his lap wishing it was his own ass there instead.)  Simmons clasped his arms around Grif, gripping his hair and pulling them as closely together as physically possible, continuing to rock Grif’s world with his amazing make out skills.

Simmons broke the kiss when he felt a hot hardness begin to press against his inner thigh, panting heavily as he opened his eyes to meet Grif’s, which were hazy and darkened with lust.  Even though this was entirely new territory for either of them, they knew each other well enough to exchange a brief look and fully understand the need that burned behind the other’s gaze.  But Simmons hesitated, old anxieties difficult to overcome; he just had to be sure this was really happening and that Grif was ready to take things to the next level.

“Do you want to... um... You can tell me if you want to stop, or if--”

“Nah, I'm comfortable where I am.”  Grif seemed to try and hold back a grin, but slowly allowed a gentle yet lecherous smile to form and reassure Simmons’ actions.

Given the green light, Simmons exhaled in relief before lunging forward to ravage Grif’s neck, nipping and sucking at his nape like some sort of sex professional, eliciting a series of loud moans from the other man.  He grinded down against Grif’s groin with his ass for good measure, thrusting his own hardness along Grif’s navel, prompting him to whimper out in staggered breaths, “Dick, fucking-- fuck, you’re so good at that, you’re so good at everything, don’t stop--”

It drove Simmons absolutely crazy when Grif said his name like that.  (And praising him on top of it all? Fuuuck.)  Normally, he’d get flustered when he teased him with it, and it was entirely because he always imagined it in this context (aside from his more domestic thoughts).  And god, did he imagine it a lot; whenever he got out of bed a little bit later or stayed in the showers a little longer than usual, crying out, “Dex,” every time he climaxed, part of him hoped that Grif did the same during his own private moments.  And with the way Grif said it just now, it sounded like he had a lot of practice saying his name that way.  And holy shit, fantasizing about it was so utterly incomparable to actually hearing him say it.

Simmons felt Grif’s hand squeeze between their chests, tracing steadily from his neck down his torso until it paused just below his waist.  He pulled away from Grif’s neck and an array of deeply bruised hickeys (pretty impressive work if he had to admit it), and placed a hand on the one that Grif hesitated to move downwards.  As much as he needed to lead Grif’s hand to start stroking his unbelievably hard member, he also needed him to know that it was more than lust driving his actions.  Finally, Simmons didn’t need to hide his feelings anymore.  He was so incredibly happy, he could tell him everything, before they went any further, before giving himself and his first time to Grif and having mind-blowing sex, he could say it, he could do this!  He brought his other hand to hold Grif’s face and looked him straight in his smoldering, trust-filled eyes.

“Dex... I love--”

----

An alarm blared from the kitchen, and Simmons’ eyes snapped open instantly.

(God fucking damnit.)

He was keenly aware of a few critical details within milliseconds of awakening.  He couldn’t see anything, as his entire face was wedged into the crook of Grif’s neck.  He was extremely warm, as he was pressed fully against Grif’s side with one arm draped across Grif’s chest.  His dick was way too firm for it to be standard morning wood (thanks to the smutty dream he was woken from too soon), and his erection was also pressed fully into Grif’s side like the rest of his body.  And now Grif was stirring underneath him, so he was awake, so there’s no way Grif wouldn’t notice any of this.

(God fucking damnit.)

Let’s see-- how did he end up like this again?  He was about to make a smooth as fuck romantic move last night in the middle of the first movie, and then Grif basically pulled him onto his lap and made a move without him probably even knowing what he was doing because he’s oblivious about everything.  So then he had to wait for another good moment, but then he didn’t see one over the next few hours, then he got up to get a drink and sat back down next to Grif, and then he must have fallen asleep.  (And then he fucking woke up with his face nuzzling into Grif’s neck and his body pressed against Grif’s and his humiliating hard-on rubbing against Grif and fuck Grif for not even getting embarrassed about anything, oh wait that’s right it’s because he doesn’t care about a goddamn thing, he obviously doesn’t because he didn’t say thanks once about the TV, and he never notices shit, because he basically asked Grif to kiss him earlier when he was quiet after Grif said, “I could kiss you right now, Dick,” he didn’t say no, he was completely silent, like what kind of fucking hint do you need to know that’s clearly an open invitation, god what a fucking moron, could he be any more straightforward?!  By the way, like that’s not gonna fucking play in his head over and over and taunt him when he goes to sleep for the next few weeks like all the other shit he says but never means but he really wants him to mean.  And he just fucking sits there letting him sleep on top of him without a care in the world, making him have stupid fucking fever dreams from being too warm and being against him the entire night, does Grif even know what the fuck he’s doing to him, no of course not, fucking Grif fuck Grif--)

God fucking damnit.”  Simmons cursed as he hastily jumped up from the couch and left the room to turn off the alarm.

He cut Grif’s stupid comments short as he left the base as quickly as possible, so that he didn’t have to get questioned about why he was leaving and didn’t have to get made fun of and didn’t have to talk about anything with stupid fucking Grif.

So yeah, it’s more like: The second time it happened, Grif and Simmons were simultaneously awoken by an alarm while cozily nestled together on the couch.  While this should have been a wonderfully sentimental event, waking up next to the one person he’s wanted to share this kind of moment with for years, Simmons was mortified and fucking pissed.

Simmons took several labored breaths, standing outside of the base with his back propped against the door he slammed shut, clenching his teeth, fists, and just about every muscle in his body.  He needed to think, chill the fuck out, and ground himself.  (Think, thinking, logical stuff, thinking and working.  Work, he needed work.  Right, he was out here for a reason, he set his alarm for a reason, he needed to go to the Blues, help the Blues, yeah, that works, that’s work, work works.)

His breathing calmed with each stiff stride as he walked away from the base, towards a stony mountain face in the distance, fidgeting compulsively with the helmet in his hands.

----

One of the first extra-curricular activities the Reds and Blues carried out together on Iris was creating a prop “spaceship crash site” using parts from vehicles and their bases they had broken within the first few weeks of moving there.  Crash Site Charlie was set up for “immersion purposes” to keep Sarge’s yearning in check for basic militaristic operations such as raiding a make-believe enemy’s supplies, but mainly so the rest of the former soldiers would be less likely to become one of Sarge’s diabolical targets for his distraction instead.  Ultimately, it became their offsite storage and junkyard for anything they didn’t immediately need at the base (which put Simmons at ease because Red Base would be much less cluttered than it already is considering an orange total slob inhabited the same space).

While Caboose helped him with the TV the other day, they agreed to meet this morning when the others were less likely to be up and about to bother them.  Simmons vaguely remembered throwing some old data pads into the crash site, so he suggested going there to forage for more parts to fix the PC.  It made more sense than grouping at Blue Base and being seen wandering off alone with Caboose, god forbid he’d try explaining that to any of the Reds; Sarge would accuse him of fraternizing with the enemy, Donut would complain about not making their event a threesome, Lopez would say something he didn’t understand, and Grif would harass him for being a Blue for the fourth time, joke about it, maybe not care, maybe would, laugh at how he fell asleep on him and his stupid boner, maybe never talk to him again, he doesn’t fucking know, fuck Grif.

Simmons was yanked from his thoughts when he realized he had reached his destination, the entrance of Crash Site Charlie at the base of a rocky alcove, finding Tucker with a scowl as he leaned against the makeshift door frame while watching Caboose draw in the dirt with his fingers.

Caboose lifted his head with a cheery smile.  “Dick! Hello!”

Tucker’s expression became perplexed as he examined Simmons.  “Uhh, you guys are on a first name basis now, before Grif?  Wait, don’t tell me, you got roped into being his new best friend.  Man, and I thought you were totally whipped, what’s Grif gonna say when he finds--”

“Have you always talked this much?  What’re you doing here, anyway?” Simmons seemed to have caught the scowl that Tucker lost.

Tucker paused.  “... Wash said I needed to come help babysit Caboose since I use the computer the most,” he muttered sheepishly.

Who’s whipped, asshole?”

“And Washington said it’s because you’re the one that broke it and not me.”

“Ugh, shut up.  Let’s go look for your lame nerdy computer things and get this over with.”

----

Simmons had to admit, the crash site they set up was fairly immersive.  They had a field day with some grenades to blow out a massive cavern into a cliff, then lined the walls with sheet metal to emulate the rooms and hallways of a large abandoned craft.  It’ll probably take them a few hours to root around the mess, since no one followed his original inventory chart and blueprints that neatly organized which rooms they should store specific categories of supplies.  Since neither Tucker nor Caboose knew exactly what they were looking for, the three of them navigated each room together, showing materials to Simmons for his approval to toss into his helmet that was now being used as a bucket.

“So why the hell are you still in your PJ’s?  Were you running late after your slumber party?” Tucker asked smugly while he rummaged through a pile of handheld devices on the other side of the room.

Shit, Simmons forgot he hadn’t changed or cleaned up since he escaped the base so quickly this morning-- wait... slumber party?  Did Tucker know about-- did he see them sleeping together through the window or something?!

“They’re more comfortable.  And I don’t know what you’re talking about.”  (Better to deny than jump to conclusions and give Tucker any possible lead that he could dig his heels into.)

Tucker whistled.  “I thought you looked worn out when you showed up.  Didn’t think Grif had the stamina to be the reason for that, bow chicka bow wow--”

Tucker, Donut said not to say anything!  And Simmons said I couldn’t say anything either.”

“You dipshit, saying that is literally the same as saying something--”

“Wait, guys-- wait-- Donut?  What did Donut say?  Wait, Caboose, what did you say?  Wait, nothing happened!”

Fuck, he knew he couldn’t trust Donut not to get ideas with something like this.  The afternoon before the movie marathon, he decided it might be a good idea to tell Caboose to avoid their base so he could “work on his best friend skills”, and also give the other Reds distractions for the evening so he could get some proper alone time with Grif.  But Lopez was nowhere to be found, he barely caught a glimpse of Sarge before the man flew out of sight and avoided him for the rest of the day, and Donut ended up being the only one he managed to talk to.  And he didn’t even have to convince him to leave because he apparently made plans already, but Donut was still acting very strange, even for Donut.

----

Simmons let out an exasperated sigh before reluctantly knocking on the door to Donut’s room.  As it creaked open, Donut’s eyes went wide, sparkling with delight upon seeing his visitor.

“Hey, Donut.  I had a question about--”

“Oh my god, you have no idea how long I’ve been waiting here for you to come and ask.”

“Uh... you’ve been waiting for me?  To ask what?”

“About preparing for the big event, you lucky dog!  But I have to run over to our neighbors soon, we’re having a wine and cheese party and a sleepover there tonight!”

“Oh, really...?  Well then, I should get going, don’t want to make you late--”

Wait!  Aren’t you going to ask me about what kind of flowers to use?!  I already have some picked out, and while carnations don’t make the classiest corsage, the color will go well with--”

“Um, what, flowers?  What--”

“Ah, going for the non-traditional route?  I can respect that! Here, at least take this and make sure you work it in real nice and deep-- it’s one of my favorites.  Gotta run, have fun and be safe!”

Donut ran out of his room with a wink after forcing a bottle of hair product with the label Tropical Paradise into his hands, which Simmons thought was stupid because when he used it before seeing Grif that night (not like it was a special occasion, he always liked to make himself presentable unlike that careless bum), he thought it smelled a lot more like a salty beach-- they should fire the halfwit in charge of marketing for not naming it something like Ocean Breeze.

----

Tucker wasn't convinced.  “Yeah, ‘nothing happened,’ right.  So spill dude, who made the first move?  Please don’t tell me I owe Wash twenty bucks--”

Simmons put his face in his hands and groaned.  So, if he had to guess, Caboose had misinterpreted what he said, then blew his cover to Donut, and with Donut being Donut, everyone in the base probably had a wildly-blown-out-of-proportion idea about what Simmons and Grif were up to before they even started hanging out yesterday.  (Which, by the way, Simmons was doing nothing before then, because all he did was spend the afternoon talking to Donut, cleaning up the living room, trying to figure out where Grif was napping, wondering where the other Reds were, wondering where Grif was because he just wanted to make sure he said seven o’clock, washing some blankets and pillow cases for him and Grif to share later, nothing.)

Caboose hung his head down shamefully.  “I’m sorry, Dick... but it wasn’t really my fault!  Because Donut said that Grif said you were going to dance, so I thought maybe you had tried all of the things we talked about, and he was trying to be a best friend back!”

Simmons feels like he’s missing something here, not that anything Caboose ever said didn’t have to be interpreted in some way.  But right now, he needs to stop hearing Blues in stereo to set the record straight, because--

“Really... nothing happened,” he said softly.  (Oh. That came out more disappointed than he intended.  That’s not suspicious at all.)

Tucker looked equally disappointed, freeing his hands and plopping down to the floor to stare at Simmons with a furrowed brow.  “Wait, really?  Actually, why am I surprised?  You took relationship advice.  From Caboose.”

Simmons had to assume that Tucker at least knew as much as Caboose, probably more since Tucker would undoubtedly (and accurately) infer something more than this being about “best friends.”  Well, all hope was lost and this day really couldn’t get any worse.  (He’s actually going insane if he’s considering involving Tucker in any of this shit after how fantastically everything went with Caboose.  But, he figured he didn’t really have anyone else to talk to about it, and Simmons really didn’t give a shit at this point since Grif ruined everything as usual.)

“Honestly?  What he said probably ended up being better than anything I could get from your compensating dumb ass.”  Caboose stuck his tongue out at Tucker with Simmons’ words.

“Whoawhoawhoa, dude, you did not just say Caboose gives better relationship tips than the Love Doctor.”

“I highly doubt your credentials and require documentation regarding your degree or associated licenses.”

“Cool it, tinman.  You’re lucky that love isn’t prejudiced against douches.  Just tell me what happened, alright?  I mean, I’m not Caboose or anything, but getting another perspective might help out.”  Tucker rolled his eyes, but his voice belied a sense of genuine concern.

Simmons was incredibly skeptical, but Tucker had a point, and it’s not like the whole world wasn’t already making their own assumptions anyway, so what did it matter?

“... You’re not going to tell Grif, or anyone else?”

“Doctor-patient confidentiality.”  Tucker nodded his head firmly, as if he was promising he wasn’t going to totally slip up by accidentally relaying everything he was about to say to Wash and Carolina as soon as he stepped foot in their base.

So against his better judgement, while keeping his hands busy digging through scrap piles closer to Tucker, Simmons explained the events of the last two days very carefully as to not cause any more misunderstandings.  He explained the TV situation, his attempts at being more physically close to him, how Grif ruined his plans to be smooth and right when he was going to put his arm around him Grif threw his legs across his lap like an idiot, how he ended up falling asleep and how Grif obviously thought that was normal but it wasn’t because he should care more and be more embarrassed about it and--

“-- it’s just take take take with that asshole, he didn’t even thank me once, and when I left this morning all he could ask was what we’re gonna watch next!”

Realizing the room became silent since he had finished his rant with an aggravated huff, Simmons slowly turned to see Tucker’s eye twitching and Caboose’s head tilting so far sideways that it might roll off his shoulders.

“Wow... I didn’t realize it was this bad.  You guys are fucking hopeless.”  Tucker shook his head.

“What?!  Fuck you--”

“So he asked you to hang out with him more, and you’re bitching about it?  Dude, are you fucking kidding me?  Isn’t that what you wanted?  And why the hell did you tweak out and bail?  Because he asked you on another fucking date and your chronic insecurity flared up?”

“Wha-- no, I... well...” (screw this entire conversation, can he just turn off his brain and die already?) “... when I woke up, we were just... really close, and there was a situation, like a morning one, and I’m pretty sure Grif felt--”

“Oh my fucking god, is that what this is about?!  You had a fucking meltdown because you had a boner after waking up?  Dude, you’re a guy!  Guys have boners all the time, I have one right--”

“Gross, don’t finish that,” Simmons winced in disgust.

“Dick, Tucker is right I think for once, maybe, probably not.  Sometimes, when I wake up and that happens--”

“Ohhh hell no, I so don’t want to know anything about Caboose’s libido, that’s just wrong on so many levels.”

Simmons let out a long, tired sigh, closed his eyes, and rubbed his temples.  This was getting him absolutely nowhere with nothing more than a headache.

He heard Tucker rummaging around behind him.  “Listen, dude.  I get it.  You guys just stand around talking about nothing all the time.  But why you can’t talk about something for once?”

(There were a lot of reasons.  Kind of hard to break a pattern, a system you’ve upheld for over a decade.  Simmons didn’t want to admit to Grif, or himself, exactly how afraid he was of losing that stupid dynamic, of losing Grif.  It was always more worth it knowing he’d be frustrated with Grif every day, than doing something that might cause him to be frustrated without him.)

“What would I even say to recover from that catastrophe?  And if you’re going to suggest anything that involves the word feelings...”  Simmons shuddered.

“You need to be casual.  You bring it up short and sweet, one and done.  The less you say, the less you’ll both dwell on it.”

Simmons squinted at him with suspicion.  “Yeah, Tucker, that conversation sounds real casual.  ‘Hey Grif, remember how we woke up cuddling and Simmons Jr. decided to join in?  Anyway, gotta update the chore wheel, see you later, pal!’”

“Nonono, fuck, man, you’re supposed to be the smart one.  You gotta say awkward shit while you’re hanging out doing normal stuff so it’s less weird, and maybe get something nice for him so you can distract him while you say it, then move the fuck on so you guys can finally get to banging--”

I found it!! ” Caboose interrupted with a joyous shout from the far corner of the room.

“What, your brain?”  Tucker turned his head right as a box flew into his face.  “Ow, what the fuck, Caboose?!”

The entire family pack box of Oreos fell to the floor after hitting its target.  Caboose seemed thoroughly pleased with both the discovery and the accuracy of his friendly fire.

“Agent Washington likes to give me cookies so he is very nice.  And since I think he is nice for doing that, then Grif will think you are nice for doing it, too.”  Caboose finished his explanation with a wise nod.

“There you go, gonna have to agree with the big guy on this one.  It’s a fucking sign, dude.  A way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, especially in Grif’s case.”  Tucker picked up the box and tossed it to Simmons.

Simmons couldn’t argue with that last statement.

“Um... thanks, Tucker.”

“Ugh, save the sappy stuff for your boyfriend, just promise you’re not gonna bitch about having a weird cuddle boner ever again.”

“He’s not my-- we’re not-- don’t call it that--” Simmons babbled in protest.

Tucker ignored him and continued, “Also, fun fact since Caboose already let the cat out of the bag: pretty sure Grif made up some shit and told Donut and the other Reds to fuck off before your date.  Something you might wanna consider when you bitch about him not doing anything for you, ‘cause I don’t wanna hear that nonsense anymore, either.”

Simmons stared at Tucker.  Grif was good at sneaking around (practice from finding the best napping places, though Simmons could usually still locate him knowing all his spots so well), and it did make sense with how all the Reds disappeared yesterday.  But... Grif tried to do something for him, then hid the fact that he did it?  What a shitty best friend.  (Wait...)

He turned the box over in his hands, halfheartedly reading the packaging.  While he didn’t believe in signs or faith as a man of science, he did believe in magic after seeing the effect food had on Grif.  (He remembered Grif saying one time that, “Food’s so magical, it could probably end world hunger.”  What an idiot.)  Simmons couldn’t stop himself from cracking a small smile.  Maybe he'll try to talk to him about something instead of nothing later.

Chapter Text

Grif sat slouched over the kitchen table of Blue Base, one hand stuffed into a large bag of Fritos and the other tapping the countertop in annoyed contemplation.

He really didn't feel like running into Simmons anytime soon since he clearly said or did something egregious enough to piss him off like that, which is why he was now stuffing his face full of chips at the Blues'.  It was uncommonly quiet and none of the others were around, so it seemed to be a safe enough location to hide out, eat, think, and steer clear of everyone for the time being.

After Simmons left in a rush that morning (for the second time this week, not that he cared enough to be counting), he cleaned up the Reds' living room all by himself without Simmons even asking him to, only because he knew he'd get yelled at about the ants again.  It definitely wasn't because he knew how much Simmons would be impressed with him for keeping things tidy.  Grif hoped by doing this immense favor, the nerd would take notice and get over whatever Grif had done to rile him up.  And he'd thank him by complaining about how he could have done this and that better and then redo all of his efforts in his oh-so-particular Simmons way of cleaning and organizing things.  But the guy was apparently too preoccupied with being an asshole and running away.  Simmons should be thankful he's got such a great... best friend?

(Yeah, best friend.  They were definitely best friends.  Regular friends were nice and thankful and courteous.  Best friends were complete dickheads to each other and didn't do lame shit like talk about feelings or forehead-kisses or probably insignificant random bouts of attraction considering some previous weird thoughts, even though those things may exist but they might as well not because they weren't allowed to talk about it anyway.)

But just because they couldn't talk about those things didn't meant he couldn't think about it, and Grif could try to find some not-talking way to relay his worries to Simmons... as if his last genius not-talking communication was relayed so effectively, what with the other party being asleep at the time.

Grif felt his stomach drop at that thought.  Was Simmons actually awake at the time when he kissed him?  Was that why he acted so cold and bailed?  Maybe he could clear things up, tell him it didn't mean anything.  But it did mean something because he was trying to say thanks.  (Well, it was more than saying thanks, but he didn't quite know what it was exactly and/or definitely wasn't willing to admit whatever it was.)  But he couldn't say that out loud.  And it's not like that was the problem the first time his friend up and left a few days back.  So back to square one in figuring out what's up with Simmons.

All he knows is that Simmons seemed adamant about not wanting to hang out with him anytime soon based on their last exchange.  (At least it only happened two times; he'd probably be more suspicious about it being a pattern if it happened anymore than that.  Not that he was too worried about it.)  Grif crammed another handful of contemplation chips into his mouth right before he was bombarded with the sounds of a door slamming open and some too-loud voices.

"Grif?  What, did you eat everything on your side already?"

"Hello Grif!"

Grif hung his head and groaned.  He turned in his seat to unenthusiastically greet Tucker and Caboose, and--

"Simmons?  What are you doing here?  ... Remind me, is this the fourth or fifth time?"

"I'm not joining the Blues, fatass!"  Simmons scowled and quickly shoved what appeared to be his helmet behind his back.  "Seriously though, please tell me Tucker's wrong about you eating a decade's worth of rations."

Grif ignored the comment, letting Simmons worry about a potential food shortage because getting under his skin always felt like the best option when available.  He also ignored the wave of relief that washed over him when he noticed Simmons's gaze soften as their eyes met.

"You say you're not, yet here you are, at Blue Base with a couple a' Blues."  Grif continued munching away while offering an unimpressed stare.

Tucker gave Simmons an undecipherable look before snatching his maroon helmet and shoving the cyborg in front of him through the doorway, apparently to offer an explanation (i.e., an excuse to probably bail again since Grif dejectedly reminded himself that Simmons didn't actually want to talk or be around him, and he still didn't know why, and he was just getting his hopes up).

Simmons flushed and crossed his arms as Tucker grabbed Caboose's wrist and pulled the larger Blue with him out of the room.

"Bye, Dick!" Caboose whispered loudly.  Grif narrowed his eyes suspiciously at Caboose as he rounded the corner before sliding his focus back to Simmons.

"Uh.  Right.  Well, I was busy scouting for a location that had good soil for agricultural efforts, and I happened to run into the Blues, and we happened to be headed in the same direction, and then I came back to tell you about it."

"Ummm.  Tell me what?  That you're switching teams or back to farming unholy three-headed produce again?"

"No-- and those were still perfectly edible!  So there's, well, we came across this spot, further down the shoreline, and it seemed like you'd really li-- it'd be a place where you probably napped a lot, and I was wondering if you knew about it, and if you didn't, if you wanted to, and maybe I could show you where it is."  Simmons turned shades darker as he hastily rambled.  Grif cocked an eyebrow.

"The shore's usually too exposed to hide and nap effectively," he said skeptically.

"It's not directly in the open and it's more secluded and-- you know what?  Just, fuck it, neverm--"  Simmons's inevitable retreat was cut short by a dark arm popping out from the doorway to shove him back.

Grif stared in confusion as Simmons sighed in defeat, then awkwardly cleared his throat, composing himself.

"We... we should determine the effectiveness of that area in regards to stress-reduction and mental repose.  I can bring rations and supplies to last us a day," Simmons stated clinically.

Oh.  That was the kind of Simmons-speak that Grif was well-versed enough in to translate.  (Why did Simmons have to be so fucking volatile sometimes?  One moment, he basically tells him to fuck off, and then he comes back and invites him to a goddamn beach camping trip?  This wasn't like Simmons at all, but... really, it was.  Grif couldn't ignore the odd flutter in his chest when he finally interpreted the request-- but what, he just expects him to eagerly forgive and forget?)

"I'm doing laziness training with Carolina soon, so tomorrow when there's more daylight?" Grif blurted out eagerly and without hesitation.

(... Okay, well, forgiving and forgetting is what they do best, and it's a major reason why their system works so well.)

"Oh, so that's why you're here.  Sure, yeah, that uh, that sounds good.  Okay."

Honestly, Grif forgot about meeting with Carolina until that moment, but he'll always take a free excuse from someone in order to not explain that he was binge eating to distract himself from thinking about the person that gave him the excuse.  And it also gave both of them a bonus get-of-this-awkward-as-fuck-conversation card.

"Cool.  Well, wouldja look at the time?  Carolina's probably waiting; don't want to see how scary she gets if I'm late--"  Grif took the bag of chips with him as he casually strolled past Simmons and the other two men crouching conspicuously next to the entryway outside.  He ignored what faintly sounded like snickering and the slap of hands behind him as he left the base.

----

A cool yet pleasant breeze rolled across the water, creating noiseless ripples.  The wavelets lapped at Grif and Carolina's heels as they laid at the edge of the small lake.  The latter let out a soft and tranquil sigh.

"I have to give it to you, Grif.  It may have taken a while, but being lazy is... nice."

When Grif didn't respond, Carolina opened her eyes to glance over and confirm her assumption that he had fallen asleep while in their meditative state.  The last sight she expected was a concerned and alert frown directed at the clouds above.

"You alright?"

"Hmm?  Yeah.  Being lazy.  Real nice."  Grif responded absently, still distracted by the thoughts swimming around his head.

Normally, the first few hours of their training regimen consisted of Grif imparting his wisdom in brief, guru-like phrases between napping periods; usually ones that included some form of the word relax and suggestions of favorite foods to daydream about.  They weren't normally spent silently worrying about the seemingly endangered state of Simmons's and his system, and spinning around thoughts about touching and thinking about how things felt with Simmons and god forbid he thought about feelings because that's definitely not what Grif was doing.

(Apparently, it's kind of hard not caring about something when you actually care about something.  Not that he cared.  Or.  Ugh.  Who the fuck knows...  He just knows that trying not to care is taking way more effort than he'd thought, and he just wanted his brain to be quiet.  Man, is this how Simmons felt all the time?)

Usually Grif depended on Simmons as his sounding board, but considering he's the topic and it would be talking about something instead of nothing, he needed to analyze this on his own.

How would Simmons approach this?  ... Logically, objectively, and with some sort of spreadsheet or list.

Grif sat up and pulled out the small datapad he kept in his pocket whenever he strayed away from the base (in case anyone needed him for something, not that he would be awake to answer or say yes anyway, depends on who was asking).  Carolina sat up to face him and criss-crossed her legs, giving a curious look as Grif started tapping away.

By making an objective and factual representation of his jumbled thoughts, it would hopefully numb the fact that he was actually writing stuff down like a schoolgirl with a diary.  Not like anyone would assume that's what he was doing, anyway.

// freaked simmons out asking bout his dick so he ran away

// robo parts are pretty awesome tho

// then simmons was fine and got a tv super cool

"Are diaries a Red team thing?  I thought only Simmons and Donut kept one."

(Damnit.)

"I was so inspired by today's laziness that I decided to write a poem," Grif said sarcastically as his thumbs kept moving.

// we watched movies or w/e  and other stuff happened but simmons didnt know about it so it effectively didnt happen  said thanks  sorta  kissed him and simms might have been awake shit whyd i do that

"This is about Simmons, isn't it?"

"What-- no.  But he's been acting totally weird, right?  You noticed it, too?  Like, weirder than he normally does, which is saying something."

// simms was  really  pretty  sorta cute when he fell asleep on me tho ngl

// didnt mind  liked  touching  cuddling  being close to him and defenses were lowered from being sleepy yea thats why i kissed him makes sense

"... You're sure the weird one is him and not you?"

// but he prob didnt like it cuz he was all pissy and didnt wanna make movie plans and ran away

"You ask a lot of questions.  I'm fine.  Fit as a fiddle.  Perfect as a Pelican.  He's the one that keeps ditching me."

"Ditching you?"

"Like I said, he's being weird.  I'm just trying to figure out how to help him stop it.  Which is more to help me 'cause I don't like it, 'cause it's more boring around here when I can't mess with him."

// then simmons was fine again and asked to hang out later but he was bein a spaz

"Uh huh.  So you're writing a poem to figure that out."

"Yep-- I mean, no, poem's not about that.  Nope."

// maybe simmons still likes hanging out i mean he asked to  go on a date  hang out again after all

// why do i like  dealing with  hanging out with this nerd

"... Going to show it to him when you're done?"

// cuz were best friends and i like hanging out with simmons

// cuz i like simmons

// not like that  maybe like that  wait shit

// i like simmons?

// touching and kissing and being close and falling asleep def werent bad things yea they were nice simms is nice

// does simmons like me too probably not oh shit i really like simmons

// fuck

"... Nope."

(Well, shit.  Looks like he's going to have to do another effort.)

So Grif's takeaways and plan of action based on his notes and discoveries were as follows:

a) hang out with Simmons (because that's what best friends do),
b) try to explain why he kissed Simmons (in a way that's not completely truthful, because that's what best friends do) and figure out if that's why he bailed the other day, and
3) if the previous point goes well, even though it's probably gonna totally suck, talk about feelings ('cause he really likes Simmons, and worrying and doing nothing is ironically more emotional effort than the doing-something alternative, and that's what best friends do...?).

Carolina stretched her arms and legs before standing up.

"Well, I don't like seeing you be weird, either.  Ask him what he's been up to if it's bugging you this much."  She offered her hand to Grif.

"And when you do, maybe sound like you care about it instead of pretending like you don't, and he might actually tell you.  You guys are good at talking to each other."

Grif groaned and pocketed the datapad.  He took her hand to pull himself up.

"Experienced, not good.  And only with talking about nothing.  Which is what we did just now."

Grif squinted at her with the warning that this conversation never happened.  Carolina simpered back.

"Sure, Grif."

(How's it possible to have gratitude and fear for someone at the same time?  Stupid smart Freelancers.  Too bad she can't scare Simmons into chilling out and staying put so they could talk about nothing and feelings.  No one's that scary, though.)

----

The next morning, Grif prepared for the day by throwing on some boardshorts and a T-shirt and stopping by the Blues' place to plunder more snacks, fishing rods, and firewood.  He figured it wouldn't be particularly cold (well, might be for a freon-cooled cyborg), but you can't have a proper beach party without a dangerously massive bonfire cooking the day's catch.  And Donut had used all of their wood for constructing a small building he called the Love Shack behind the base.  Grif hasn't gone inside or asked about it because he'd rather not be privy to that knowledge.

And Grif didn't question when Tucker helped him find fishing gear with a cheeky grin, or when Caboose provided unsolicited help loading all of the stolen goods into their Warthog, until the latter Blue cheerily commented, "You and Dick are gonna have so much fun!  He's a great best friend, isn't he?" which irked him way more than anything coming from the big dope should.

"Dick, huh?  When'd you guys get so close?  Does he call you Mikey when he holds your hand and gives you flowers?"

"I do like flowers, they are nice.  I might ask him about that.  But he gives me other nicer things instead.  Because he is a really good friend that is very nice and he would maybe probably like to be hugged or cuddled a lot," Caboose said intently, an odd glint in his eyes.

Before Grif could ask what the fuck that meant or question if he ever touched Simmons, Caboose dumped the last bundle of lumber and shouted goodbye before returning to his base.

Simmons walked out of the Red's front entrance soon after, predictably over-prepared, dragging a large cooler behind him with a beach bag and towels piled on top.  He was wearing boardshorts similar to Grif's, a tank top, and sunglasses-- man, did the look suit him way more than Grif would've ever expected.  (Wonder what it'd be like to see him back in Hawaii on the beach like this every day.)

"Shotgun--!" Simmons yelped instinctively upon seeing the vehicle next to Grif.  (Grif ignored the voice in his head calling out shotgun's lap.)

"I always drive, idiot-- where else did you think you were gonna sit?" Grif scoffed light-heartedly, walking over to help him haul the cooler over to the jeep.

"Driver's lap."

Grif snapped his head up wide-eyed at Simmons, freezing at the matter-of-fact statement as if it were completely fucking normal.  He prayed that his stare didn't look too hopeful.

"Oh you're so insecure," Simmons taunted with a slight flush as they hoisted the container into the back of the Warthog.  (Right, joke, not statement.  They joke about things.  Jokes are good, jokes are funny.  Best to double down so Simmons doesn't think he took it seriously.)

"I've got wood for you."

"... I see that.  Why is there so much?  Do we need two fires to handle all the food you're gonna cook?"

"Nope, I'm just gonna erect something tall and hot that'll make both of us sweat."

"Okay, Donut." Simmons snorted.

"What's in the cooler?" Grif asked as they walked to the front of the vehicle.

"Grif-approved craving level 5-and-above provisions.  And ice."

"Nice.  I thought the ice maker was broken." Grif hopped into the driver seat.

"I can use my mystical cyborg refrigeration powers to create ice cubes," Simmons deadpanned as he jumped into the passenger seat.

"That's pretty cool, man."

"You're so lame."

"Takes one to know one."

"That didn't even make sense."

"You don't make sense."

"Start driving, dumbass."

As they revved up and rolled away, Grif and Simmons failed to spot the multiple sets of eyes peering from the kitchen window of Blue Base.

Grif was pleasantly surprised at the locale Simmons directed them to; "directed" meaning shrieking directions laced with obscenities the entire six minutes that Grif recklessly flew them across hills and dune bashed over mounds of sand along the beach.

About thirty feet from the shoreline, they parked next to a large jagged rock formation, which featured a cavern shielded by a trickling series of waterfalls leading into a natural swimming hole lined with sand and smooth, flat boulders. It wasn't as majestic as some of the lagoons he'd visited around Maui as a teen, but Grif couldn't think of a more perfect place to be at the moment for some reason.

 

 

----

The day continued as expected.  Mostly.

Simmons neatly set two large towels parallel to each other on the beach while Grif dragged the cooler next to their spot, and Grif asked him if he brought sunscreen for their delicate Dutch-Irish skin.  While Simmons went back to grab the beach bag from the Warthog, Grif took off his shirt and quickly moved the towels from twenty inches apart to two inches apart.

Grif asked if Simmons needed help putting the lotion on his back, and Simmons made a strange strangled noise and nodded. He made a stranger noise when Grif yanked the tank top over his head, and wailed when Grif exploded out half the bottle on his shoulder.  Grif blamed it on the fact that he's never had to use the stuff before their surgeries.

Simmons asked if Grif thought gravity from other celestial bodies would cause the tide on Iris to rise, and Grif said since tides are highest during the full moon and they're on a moon, the moon ocean would always be at high tide because the moon was always full, unless part of it got hit and destroyed by an asteroid.  Simmons shrugged and didn't question his astrological knowledge while he helped apply an appropriate amount of sunscreen on Grif's (previously Simmons's) left arm and face.

Grif asked Simmons what he wanted to eat, and Simmons said it wasn't lunch time yet.  Grif said it was noon o'clock somewhere, and took out a sandwich and two beers from the cooler and passed a can to Simmons.

Simmons asked about the fishing rods and whether or not the fish on the moon were edible, or if there even were fish in the first place, and Grif said there was only one way to find out.  Grif cast his and Simmons' lines out and stuck the rods in the sand while Simmons grabbed something hidden at the bottom of the cooler.

Grif asked excitedly where the hell Simmons managed to find Oreos because he thought he ate all of them in the first two weeks, and Simmons smugly threw the bulk-sized pack to him without a word.  Grif hastily ripped opened the box, then a sleeve, but paused for a moment and presented an Oreo to Simmons.

Simmons asked Grif if he was okay and looked at him as if he grew an extra head before slowly taking the offering, blushing and leaving a smile on his lips underneath some crumbs from his first bite, and Grif smiled widely back.  (Totally worth the first Oreo.)

Grif asked if Simmons wanted to try out the swimming hole and if he brought floaties so he wouldn't sink because he's one-eighth metal, and Simmons rolled his eyes and got up from their lounging spot to walk towards the water and prove he'd be fine.

Simmons slipped on an unstable rock with his first step and sank to the bottom of the four-foot-deep pool immediately, and Grif didn't hesitate to jump in and pulled him up in less than two seconds.  Grif held him in the water bridal-style and asked if he needed mouth-to-mouth.  Simmons gaped at him, clearly flustered, but didn't respond otherwise.

Grif paddled around lazily and asked if his cyborg parts would rust, and if he would need help with maintenance afterwards, and if he got robo-itchy when sand got in his robo-toes, and Simmons splashed water at his face for being annoying.  Grif tried to create a tidal wave in response and nearly drowned Simmons again.

Simmons asked what his favorite beach activity was that wasn't sleeping, and Grif listed out several things but couldn't really decide.  Simmons admitted they all sounded nice, and Grif promised that he'll take him snorkeling and surfboarding with floaties and rock crab hunting and fishing when they go back home together to Earth one day.  This reminded Grif to get up and check on the fishing rods.  Guess they were unlucky so far or moon fish didn't actually exist.  Simmons stared at him from the pool with a beet-red face and an odd expression for some reason.

Grif said they should start a fire before the sun starts to set, and Simmons agreed and brought wood over while Grif dug a pit in the sand near their towels.  They carefully stacked it log cabin-style until it was a Grif-approved, unsafe height of five feet tall.  Simmons reduced it to a Simmons-approved two foot tower while Grif gathered food from the cooler.

Simmons sat cross-legged cooking a hot dog skewered on a stick and asked how many beers Grif drank so far, and Grif responded with, "a baker's dozen."  Simmons shoved a water bottle into his lap so he wouldn't get a headache later, which caused Grif to almost drop his stick loaded with the other nine hot dogs from the package into the bonfire.

Grif hesitantly asked if Simmons thought there were bats in the cave behind the little waterfalls, and Simmons mused that while it was unlikely in this environment, moon bats could exist.  Grif threw more logs on the fire to prevent the evil moon bats from attacking them, and scooted a few inches closer to Simmons.

Simmons hesitantly asked if Grif thought there were snakes in the cave, too, and Grif said definitely, and that moon snakes are scary as fuck.  As Indiana Jones and all the other old action movies taught him, snakes are scared of fire, so Simmons added even more wood and scooted closer until his leg was resting on Grif's.

Grif asked if fire always felt this warm and fuzzy and if he could touch Simmons hair, and Simmons told him to drink more water.  It was probably on accident, but Simmons sat up to adjust himself and his hand ended up resting on top of Grif's and he didn't move it away.

Grif and Simmons eventually laid back against their beach towels in front of the fire, talking about nothing, staring at the stars above, holding hands for a few more hours, until sleep overtook the both of them.

The day went better than expected.  (Grif definitely couldn't complain.  If any time he's spent with Simmons in the past was ever considered a date, this would be the best one, of all time.)

Until Grif tried to talk about something.

----

Grif and Simmons were chatting while picking up the camp site in the morning as the sun began to rise over the horizon.  As Grif kicked sand over the embers in the firepit, his hand in his pocket fiddled with his datapad.  He reminded himself that he'd try to talk to Simmons to figure out why he's been more randomly uptight lately, and, you know, maybe attempt to talk about the last thing or two he wrote down.  Might as well do it while Simmons was in a good mood and try to keep it casual (to help lessen the blow if-- when, knowing them-- things went sideways).

"Hey."  Grif walked over to lean against the side of the jeep.

"Yeah?"  Simmons glanced up at him from the back while throwing in the beach bag.

"Can we talk about something?"

"Uhh, weren't we already?"

"No, Simmons, we were talking about nothing.  I wanted to ask about something.  Specifically, when we watched movies, and you leaving, and maybe why that happened."

Simmons looked like a deer caught in headlights.

"L-listen, I can explain, it's, uh, that wasn't--" Simmons babbled several iterations of the beginning of an excuse, and Grif sighed.

Yeah, figures.  Simmons was going to play his usual avoidance routine and never try to talk about the touching or kissing things or feelings and he didn't like Grif.  Of course.  But maybe he just needed time.  And the least Grif could do is stand his ground, since they should really talk about it like the civilized and mature adults they are.

(Uhh, yeah, not fooling anyone with that.  Simmons is gonna tell him he crossed a line and that this trip was awful and that he doesn't wanna hang out ever again.  This was all a test, he knew it was too good to be true, Simmons has been fucking with him this whole time.  How could he salvage this situation?  What would Simmons do?  Right, what the asshole is doing now: avoidance.  Two can play at this game.  Fall back, recoup, and fight another day.  Or month.  Or year.)

"Simmons-- it's fine.  It doesn't mean anything.  Doesn't have to.  I was tired, shit happens, so let's just forget it happened like we usually do."

Simmons seemed relieved at first, which made Grif's chest tighten uncomfortably for some reason, but it was quickly followed by a look of skepticism and concern.  "You're sure?  That nothing's, like, gonna be weird?  I mean, we've gone through some things but that was kind of a first for us and--"

"Dude, if you think that counted as a first anything, you're more of a virgin nerd than I give you credit for.  It has to be mutual, and you know, maybe more romantic."  Grif couldn't hide the tinge of bitterness and guilt from his statement.

"W-wh-- rom-- it's not like I had any say in it happening!  I had no control of the situation, I was sleeping!" Simmons sputtered in offense, blushing furiously.

"Yeah, that's what I'm saying.  You were sleeping, no one noticed anything happening, let's go with that and just fucking drop it, man."

"Fine, whatever!  It's not like I wanted to try and talk to you about it anyway!"

"Uh huh, yeah.  Maybe I should ask Caboose what the fuck is going on with you, Dick, since you won't even tell your best friend."

"What--?!  What did Caboose say?  ... Best friend?  Oh god damnit..."

"Just some interesting things yesterday when we were getting ready.  Something about cuddling."

"Caboose, he-- he hugs everyone!  That idiot is always talking about that kind of stuff!  It doesn't mean anything, damnit I told him I'd handle--"

"Uh huh.  Sure.  Carolina was right, you're being completely weird."

"What?!  He told-- oh holy shit I'm going to kill him--"

And in an explosive fit of what seemed to be rage, embarrassment, and who the fuck knows what else, Simmons stomped away from Grif into the direction of their base.

Well, in all honesty, that actually didn't go as badly as Grif imagined.  Aside from being left alone for the third time this week.  At least Simmons seemed to be more mad at Caboose than him.  But he should be more mad at Grif given the situation, right?  Did... wait, no.  Was he being replaced by Caboose?  (Holy shit, how ridiculous, nobody but Grif himself can ruin or replace their friendship, or system, or whatever the hell it is, especially not that idiot.)  Suspicions aside, at least Simmons helped with cleaning up before running away this time.

Grif sat in the back seat of the Warthog under the turret, drinking some water and staring at the notes he had written on his datapad yesterday.

He contemplated driving back sooner, and being a decent best friend and picking Simmons up when he caught up to him on the way back.  But that could be awkward.  So Grif figured he'd give the nerd a head start so he wouldn't drive past him and leave him in the dust, although that'd be pretty funny in most other situations.

Grif started tapping away his thoughts to pass the time.

// yesterday was good

// messing with simmons was fun

// simms should wear less stuff more often

// less long sleeved stuff shit

// holding hands is nice

// was this the second or third time falling asleep together?

Grif felt his cheeks heat up slightly and shook his head.  (Ugh, stop being lame and daydreaming to avoid thinking about it.)

// talking didnt go too great smh

// avoiding is way more  frustrating  painful  effort than just saying something now

// should prob just tell him and get it over with fast before he runs so i can stop spazzin like simms

// ok fuck it new plan gonna be straight with him (gay with him??) and tell him feelings stuff next time

(Since when did Grif start caring enough to keep a shitty diary?  It really must be a Red thing.  Does Simmons type about him, too?)

With his newly formulated and very strategic Red-team-tactics-inspired plan (utilizing the "just fuckin' go for it" method), Grif started the engine.  He began his drive back to find Simmons and hopefully finish the conversation they started in the closet on Chorus.

Chapter Text

The third time it happened, Simmons' plans to talk to Grif about something were utterly destroyed because Grif talked about it first.

Simmons meticulously wrote everything down the night before.  He analyzed all of the different paths that could possibly occur, mapped out a conversation flow diagram, and neurotically rehearsed each possible iteration word for word, and Grif fucking ruined everything with three sentences.  Grif's stupidity was the single threat Simmons didn't take into account, and the most obvious risk that wasn't properly assessed.  He was supposed to initiate the topic, and once caught off-guard due to the tables being turned, Simmons just sat there incoherently stammering and watching the discussion crumble before him in horror.

Simmons despised when things didn't go according to plan, when things felt incomplete, when things weren't perfect.  Because everything that wasn't perfect wasn't good enough.  And when things go completely ass-fucking-backwards, especially after putting in so much effort... it made him slightly upset.

(Because he was the one that was supposed to start the conversation-- Grif ruined everything, as fucking usual!  It would have gone casually and smoothly, just as planned, if Grif just shut the fuck up for once and let him say exactly what he spent the entire fucking night before practicing for hours.  Grif was an oblivious asshole, so how the fuck could Simmons have foreseen him bringing the issue up himself when he hadn't harassed him about it the entire day yesterday?  Was he just biding his time to find the best opportunity to shit on him in the most effective way possible, was Grif really that fucking petty?  After he went through the effort of fixing the stupid ice maker and preparing all his favorite kinds of sandwiches so he'd have different options and got the first brand of beer they ever drank together and gave him his favorite fucking food in the world but not like Grif would realize or appreciate any of that shit, and fuck they held hands and fell asleep next to each other and Grif was okay with it again but apparently not because he was hung up on the boner thing which he knew was going to bite him in the ass no matter how well their day went.  And why did he want to bring it up in the first place if he was just going to tell him to forget it right away?  And did he fucking actually say that pressing his dick against him should have been more romantic?  Seriously, what the fuck?  Since when did Grif care about romance?  Wait, what the fuck?  Did Grif want something romantic to happen?  He said something about it being mutual, too, oh shit shit shit oh shit did he seriously just fuck everything up because he didn't understand at the-- God damnit no stop getting your fucking hopes up, Grif is the one that ruined everything, he's the one that kept saying it didn't have to mean anything and was so adamant about dropping the topic-- but he's also the one that brought it up in the first place, God fucking damnit why the fuck did Grif have to be so stupid and confusing and stupid fucking Grif--)

Simmons slowly let out a breathy, frustrated groan.  He sat hunched over on the edge of his bed, holding a multitool in his mouth and cradling his detached steel arm between his legs, his free hand twisting a small screwdriver to fasten a panel back onto it.  After he entered his room fuming and slammed the door shut, the cyborg followed his tried and true method of giving himself a productive task to prevent himself from focusing on the thought spiral he was trying not to experience for the past hour or two.  (Because Dick Simmons was not the kind of person who sat around in bed and pouted when something went wrong-- he was the kind of person who was actionable. You know, punching mirrors, and hiding in the bathroom to cry-- or uh, performing routine maintenance.  Not that anyone but Grif knew about the frequency of those acts, and Sarge and Donut hopefully-- probably thought it was a joke when Grif mentioned it in the past.)

While working and not-spiraling into an anxiety-ridden meltdown, Simmons thought he heard footsteps stumbling around on the other side of the door a few times.  He disregarded the sounds, hoping Donut or Sarge or whoever it was would leave him be.  (He knew it couldn't be Grif since that idiot seemed so resolute about being defensive or dismissive or worried about being romantic or whatever the fuck the last time they spoke and even if it was Grif he didn't want to talk to him right now anyway, either.  Stupid fucking Grif.)

Simmons felt a small touch of relief, accomplishing at least one task that kept his hands busy.  But after cleaning out the sand from his arm, he needed something else to do, something else to focus on.  Right, the computer still needed to be fixed, and they got all the parts necessary to do so with the last supply run.

Simmons could finish it up on his own, but it would make him somewhat uncomfortable having one or more of the Blues watching him work (like some quiet maintenance worker coming over to fix their kitchen sink as they stand there and stare at his back for an hour trying to make awkward small talk or potentially talk about personal subjects and fuck if he was about to let that happen).  Plus it would go faster if he had some help.

But even though Caboose and Tucker helped with finding materials, and while Caboose was admittedly good with his hands in the right setting, he didn't want to talk to either of those bastards right now and accidentally tell them more things that would find their way aboard the gossip train, with a pit stop at Carolinaville and a final destination to Griftown, playing some shitty version of the telephone game where everyone in the end thinks he wants to cuddle or talk about his dick or whatever the fuck Donut possibly imagined.

After also ruling out Carolina due to her intensity (for lack of a better word), his only other choice happened to be his probable best option.  Wash seemed to be the most responsible and have the least amount of screws loose (ironically, given his dramatic Freelancer-ridden past).  And he seemed more than capable enough in following technical directions.  And most importantly, he seemed to be rational yet fairly oblivious when it came to talking about personal things, so Wash would be the least likely candidate to bother him about recent events.  (Really, the guy clearly has feelings for Tucker, but obviously nothing happened yet since Tucker would've bragged and shoved it in everyone's face ten times over by now.  As for Wash's tastes, as long as the guy makes him happy, to each his own, and it's not like he really had the right to judge if he had to be honest, considering-- anyway... he just hopes that Wash is the one to initiate that whole thing, so he can win his recent bet with Grif to prove his point that the quiet or least expected one is always the person to make the first move.)

Simmons heard the telltale stomping of Sarge's footsteps leading out of the base and waited a few more minutes to confirm that there were no other signs of movement from the other Reds.  He quietly opened the door to exit his room, then dashed through the hallway.  He stalled momentarily to peer around the corner of each turn, eventually making it out of the base and into the Blues'.  Simmons, satisfied that he wasn't caught sneaking over again, exhaled in relief as he opened the door to enter the neighboring kitchen.

He definitely did not anticipate a welcome party of four expectantly waiting for him, sitting around their dining table, as if he was about to get caught up in one of Donut's fucking Friend-terventions.

Each person gave Simmons a various but equally suspicious greeting: Tucker saying, "Hey, man," trying to hide a grin, Wash nodding and averting his gaze immediately, Carolina smiling knowingly with a wave, and Caboose looking away and whistling literally like a guilty cartoon character.  (God, what a bunch of transparent assholes.  This is just embarrassing.)

"Soooo," Tucker stretched out, his smirk widening.  "How's it going, Simmons?"  His attempt at feigning innocence failed miserably considering the devilish grin plastered on his face.

Carolina and Wash regarded the others with amusement, but thankfully didn't add to the bombardment of less-innocent questions that erupted from Tucker and Caboose.

"Okay let's cut to the chase dude, no more beating around the bush.  Did you beat around Grif's?  Bow chicka bow wow--"

"Did you guys go to the dance like Donut said?  Tucker won't tell me what kind of dance it is.  Neither will Agent Washington.  He gave me a book he said I could read later, though."

"Ohhoho, yeah-- what kind of 'dance' did you guys do?  Probably something vanilla as hell, your first slow dance if you know what I mean, bow chi--"

"Did your best friend Grif give you lots of hugs?  I tried to tell him to give you cuddles when we helped carry stuff yesterday, but he is kind of slow so I don't think he understood--"

"Yeah, did you guys cuddle afterwards or did he just fuckin' roll over and fall asleep?  Oh, dude, I'm sorry but that shit's hilarious, I wouldn't expect any less from--"

"Are you on the top or the bottom?  Tucker won't tell me on the top or bottom of what, but he kept saying he needs to know so I should probably know too so I am asking that now."

Simmons, turning a more unnatural shade of red with each word, clenched and released his fists at the sides of his rigid body and took a deep breath.  The torrent of absurdity subsided as everyone in the room fixated on Simmons, awaiting his response.

"Wash."  Wash stared back with a look of dread that informed Simmons that he really didn't want to be involved with any of this.  (Can't really blame him.)

"Simmons," Wash returned hesitantly.  An uncomfortable hush smothered the air.

"I need another set of hands to help with fabricating some smaller parts for the computer.  Do you mind helping?"

"Sure, no problem."  The rest of the Blues' eyes followed Wash's back as he cautiously stood up and followed Simmons out of the room.

Tucker sighed heavily when they left.  "Shit, those two really are hopeless."

Carolina gave him an unimpressed look.  "Which two?"

"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?!"

Carolina rolled her eyes with a smirk, considering his reaction suggested he knew exactly what it meant.

----

Simmons and Wash sat across from each other on the floor of their common area, disassembled datapads neatly organized across the coffee table.  The main task of the day was to Frankenstein the hell out of the makeshift motherboard and connect all of the re-purposed items.  Simmons kept track of all of the different models of components while Wash carefully constructed everything.  They only spoke when necessary, nodding in confirmation to respond to each other.  They were focused.  It was pleasant, this comfortable silence.  Simmons appreciated it.

"So."

(Have you ever sighed so hard internally that it shows on your face, and then it confirms to the other person and yourself that you're about to talk about something you really don't want to, but you know it's going to happen anyway and there's nothing you can do about it, and then you sigh out loud, which causes the other person to actually start talking about it?  ... Yeah.)

Wash smiled apologetically at his dismal reaction.  "It's okay, Simmons. As much as Tucker likes to talk, I don't believe in hearsay."

"Doesn't matter anyway."  Simmons muttered with another sigh.  (It really didn't.  He was stuck in this hellscape of having an unrelenting infatuation with an idiot that either doesn't understand his advances, or does understand them and just feels like fucking with his emotions every waking moment.)

"... What do you mean?  Uh-- you don't have to tell me anything if you don't want to."  Simmons almost felt comforted by the sentiment, but his guard stayed up.

Wash seemed to sense this.  He leaned back and rested on his palms, relaxing himself to prepare for what Simmons could only suppose was the start of a trust-winning conversation attempt.

"You know, I never went to prom either.  Didn't have a date."

Simmons tilted his head up to meet Wash's eyes, so he could give him the most obvious what in the fuck are you talking about look he could muster.

Wash tilted his head.  "So... does that mean you guys didn't actually slow dance or--?"

"Why the fuck do people keep talking about that?!"

"Oh.  Ask Donut, I guess," Wash laughed sheepishly.

(Oh, indeed.  Funny how a single name clears up confusion instantly, and how commonly that occurs when the name happens to be Donut.)

"Or maybe ask Grif instead."

Simmons' hands froze.  He shook his head and continued compulsively straightening some wires on the table.

"I... tried?  But no matter what happens, he doesn't get anything.  And when it seems like he does, he does shit that makes no fucking sense."

"So I'm guessing you guys... talked, at least?"

"... Not really."

"Oh."

(Man, Wash's heart was in the right place, but emotional support was not his forte.)

Simmons sighed.  He decided to throw Wash a bone, and began to recount the events of the previous day and that morning, in as factual a manner as possible.  (The facts being that he was completely smooth and held his hand and Grif was an ignorant dickhead but also apparently not yet wanted to remain at a conversational standstill as far as any previous awkward happenings or their relationship is concerned and seriously what the fuck did he mean by romantic--)

As Simmons wrapped up his rambling, he noticed one of Wash's eyebrows had elevated an inch higher than it had been at the start of his commentary.

"Wow... you two are worse off than I had imagined."

Simmons would have normally retorted with some string of defensive expletives.  However, given that he received a similar response to his explanation, he simply bestowed upon the world another of the many sighs he's been finding himself too-often producing lately.

Wash rested his chin on his palm, tapping his cheek in thought.  "Perhaps... you need to have someone run reconnaissance, considering how much miscommunication appears to be happening.  Your dynamic with Grif is obviously different when you two are alone.  Proper feedback isn't going to be possible without accurate information."

Simmons was taken aback.  It did make logical, objective sense, which he always appreciated.  But--

"... Wait.  You're suggesting to spy on us in order to give advice?  Isn't that kind of a breach of privacy?"

Wash shrugged.  "Only for Grif, if you consent to it."

Simmons considered this option seriously, staring pensively at the table.  (Fuck it.  He's tried so hard and come this far, but in the end, it didn't even matter.)  He nodded his head as if he had a sudden impulse to headbang for God knows what reason.

"Well, even if Grif ended up spotting you, he wouldn't have a fucking clue.  So I'm fine with it."

Wash nodded as if to accept the task.  "Good."  He appeared to be mulling over something, then straightened his back decisively, his voice becoming authoritative.  "In return for my assistance, should anything happen between you two, I need you to make sure to be the one to initiate it."

Simmons opened his mouth to interject, but a strange gleam in Wash's eyes muted him.

"I have a longstanding disagreement with someone that needs to be settled," he concluded, tone unchanging.

(Gee, wonder who or what he could be talking about.)

Wash folded his arms, staring intently at Simmons and awaiting his response.  (Well... at least Wash chose him over Grif.  The Freelancer may be oblivious about his own pursuits, but given the information he's probably heard from Tucker about how direct and smooth he was, betting on Simmons would be obvious even to Wash, regardless of his past initiation attempts being intentional and well-executed, or-- well... not so much.)

Simmons clenched his jaw as if to force the flustered feeling back, then slowly returned a nod in approval.

----

Upon finally rebuilding the computer (which they fabricated to be much smaller and more space-efficient so the Blues would have to be more gentle with it-- like that advice is going to go over well), Simmons stayed in the common area with Wash to prepare (build up his confidence and discontinue his panicking) before going over to casually and smoothly talk to Grif about nothing.  And maybe ask about his reaction that morning if it went well enough.

Simmons's assumption about Grif's whereabouts were accurate as usual, finding him on the couch in the Red's common area.  Wash, who had been following closely behind him, had disappeared from sight the moment he entered the base.  (Huh.  A soldier who could dependably reconnoiter without being discovered by their target.  Not really used to that particular skill on the Red team.)

Simmons cleared his throat to announce his presence.  Grif's shoulders tensed for a moment, but he kept his eyes glued to the TV screen, where an actor in an inflatable dinosaur costume trudged across a desert.

"Oh hey, this is that one mov--"

"Where the fuck have you been?"

"Uh, what?"

(Uhhhhhh... what? That was an... accusatory tone if he's ever heard one.  What the hell?)

"... Nevermind."  Grif tossed into his mouth what appeared to be the last Oreo from the box sitting on his lap.

"Hey, you know that was the last box I could find, fatass.  Good luck getting more anytime soon."

Grif hummed in... what was this, thought?  Carelessness?  Annoyance?

"Hmm.  Sucks."  (And he had no fucking comeback, no witty retort, just that?  Simmons is the one that's supposed to be irritated, not him!)

With every comment from Simmons, Grif continued to rebut with dismissive single words under his breath.  And with every response from Grif, Simmons continued to grow increasingly distressed.  (He wanted to try and ask Grif about this morning, casually yet directly yet smoothly, but he couldn't fucking do it with Grif being... whatever this was.  Plus, knowing Wash was somewhere nearby eavesdropping made him feel that much more awkward about the whole thing.)

Grif eventually shifted and raised himself off of the couch.

"M'tired, and you're being too loud," he said flatly, having avoided eye contact with Simmons the entire time.  Grif maintained this trend with success as he made his way out of the room, lightly brushing Simmons's shoulder with his own as he passed.

"Have fun with the Blues."

Simmons heard the door to Grif's room creak and close down the hall.

He was left standing alone in the room, speechless and confused.  (... and hurt and anxious and starting to believe that he really fucked something up and worrying that Grif was going to continue avoiding him like this forever and he didn't want that he really didn't their system was fucked and fuck himself for letting his feelings get in the way of something that didn't have to change and fuck Grif for not talking and--)

"That... was interesting."

Simmons jumped, sharply turning his head to the entryway leading to their kitchen.  Wash leaned forward across their table so he could meet Simmons' eyes, peering past the doorframe, holding a bag of chips with a mug sitting in his other hand, as if he'd been watching a fucking movie play out in front of him.

"What the fuck, Wash?  I thought you were supposed to be spying-- were you just sitting here out in the open the whole time?!" Simmons whispered furiously.

"You said, 'spying,' not me," Wash mumbled through a mouth full of Fritos, then swallowed.  "Plus, no one noticed me here.  Well, except Sarge since he made us coffee, but he left after Grif started talking."

Simmons face-palmed and groaned.

Wash rose and walked over to Simmons.  He bumped his shoulder in a friendly and much less indifferent way than Grif had done moments ago.  "Come on.  Let's regroup and assess an appropriate strategy."

Simmons allowed his body to trail behind Wash as they returned to the other base, feeling emotionally congested yet vacant at the same time.  (Why was he letting Wash help this much, when'd he get so pathetic that he needed someone to walk him through talking to his fucking best friend?  And why did Wash want to even help him, anyway?  Probably because the dickhead just wanted twenty bucks from a bet-- "disagreement" that looked like it was never going to be resolved at this point.)

----

Simmons felt a sense of déjà vu as he entered the Blues' kitchen with Wash, although the greetings were much more ambivalent than last time.  As if to signify the allowance of inquiries, Simmons wordlessly pulled up a chair alongside the others, propping his elbows up and burying his face into his hands.

His sense of déjà vu grew stronger, since before Wash could sit down and start speaking, Simmons was assailed yet again with questions, suggestions, and generally vexing comments.

"Oh my god I thought for SURE you guys would've boned this time!  What is wrong with you, man?!  This is bullshit!" Tucker seemed genuinely upset.

"Don't listen to Tucker, it is okay.  We just need to go over some of the talking things that we had and you and Grif will keep being best friends."  Caboose bowed his head sagely.

"Why don't you write him a poem?  Last time I saw him, he was working on one for you in his diary," Carolina proposed with a gentle tone.  Simmons snapped his head up at that.

"What?! Really? What did he write? Wait, Grif has a diary, too--"

"No way, dude, that's fuckin' lame," Tucker cut him off with a snort.  "You should totally write rap lyrics instead!"

Wash intervened.  "Don't people usually 'diss' each other in rap songs?  Isn't that the opposite of trying to talk about his feelings?"

"No, Wash, that's a rap battle.  This would be like a rap ballad.  But a rap battle between these two chumps would be fuckin' hilarious and I would pay so much money to--"

"I am not telling Grif I love him with a fucking rap battle!" Simmons yelled in aggravation.

He realized what he had uttered when the deluge of idiotic remarks ceased in an instant.

"Dude. You said--"

Simmons ducked his head back down into his arms to hide his searing face.  (Oh my god.  He fucking admitted that he loved Grif, out loud, to a group of morons, before Grif.  This is a goddamn nightmare, and he wants to wake up right the fuck now.)

Wash stepped forward to deliver what would have probably been his logical assessment based on his espionage efforts, but was cut off by Tucker.

"Okay, guys, this is serious.  We need to formulate a real top notch plan.  No nonsense, no poems, no raps," said Tucker with a determined and profound tone.

As Simmons let out a muffled sigh, Caboose placed a hand on his back.

"Dick, it's really easy, and you do not need to worry so much about it.  All you need is to set a good example, and be straightforward, and Grif will not be able to be stupid or ignore what you are saying."

Simmons lifted his head to glance sideways at Caboose.  "Caboose, I don't--"

Caboose quickly slid his hand across Simmons's back to grab his shoulder, standing up and easily lifting Simmons with him.  Caboose snatched his hand and boldly paced towards the door with the cyborg in tow.

"What the fuck, Caboose?! What are you--"

"I told you, you just need a good example.  So I am showing you that now."

Tucker, Wash, and Carolina traded quizzical, amused, and slightly alarmed glances while listening to Simmons holler outside.

"I don't like where this is going."

"Oh man, this should be good.  Or it's going to be real bad.  Either way, it'll be entertaining."

Caboose dragged a very flustered Simmons to Grif's door, and Simmons paused his protests once realizing the destination.  The commotion must have caused Grif to be curious enough to investigate, since he opened the door at that moment.

(Oh no.  NononoNOnonono.  Why did this fucking moron drag him here, what the fuck was he going to say, why couldn't he just say shit but he doesn't want to ruin anything else but now it's a million times fucking worse--)

Grif's annoyed expression dropped upon meeting Simmons's shell-shocked one, now replaced with concern.  His eyes flitted to Caboose's smiling face briefly, then down at their joined hands, then back to Simmons.  A look Simmons could only categorize as bad but otherwise was incomprehensible took over Grif's features.

(Fuck.  This was just giving Grif the wrong idea, they could just go back and pretend like this interaction never happened, yeah, he could run away right now, and everything can go back to normal in a week or a month or a year once all of this became water under the bridge.)

Caboose cleared his throat and turned to Simmons, still holding his hand with a grip tight enough that he would never be allowed to escape.  (Oh no.)

"Dick, I just want you to know, that you are a very great friend," he started slowly yet deliberately.  "And I appreciate when you give me things as you have been doing much more recently which is very nice. I am not afraid to say how I feel about you, and I feel very strongly about you. In fact, I would say that I love you."  Caboose offered a heartfelt smile.  Simmons stared back, dumbfounded.

"Now it's your turn."  With this instruction, Caboose gave Simmons the biggest grin he's ever seen, probably due to him believing that he helped so, so much.  (God fucking damnit.)

"Yeah, Simmons.  Now you say it," suggested Grif pointedly, clearly irked by the situation because god fucking damnit who the fuck would ever want to be a party to this fucking disaster.

Before Simmons could stammer out an objection (which probably looked like he was about to confess his love back to Caboose because that's how screwed up this entire situation was), Grif held up a hand to stop him.

"Actually, I don't want to ruin the moment, so I'm going back to sleep. Congrats," he said flatly, then slammed the door shut, leaving Caboose and Simmons alone in the hallway.

(... God fucking damnit.)

Chapter Text

Bzzzzz.  Bzzzzz.

Grif released a low, muffled groan into his pillow, pulling an arm from underneath it to grasp at the end table next to the bed.  He clumsily smashed his fingers against the pocket datapad for what felt like the hundredth time in the last hour, leaving his arm dangling over the edge of the mattress once it was silenced.

Bzzzzz.  Bzzz--

"Ugh.  You've gotta be fucking kidding me.  Fine."

Grif propped himself up on his elbows and grabbed the device.  He frowned as he squinted at the Basebook app badge that indicated there were 32 unread messages.

After witnessing what looked like-- well, it definitely didn't just look like a confession, it clearly was  one... but after that happened, Grif did what he does best to collect his thoughts: he flopped onto his bed and tried not to think at all.  It was as effective as usual, for the most part, except for the incessant notifications going off on his phone, reminding him that other people exist, and one of those people is Simmons, and Simmons decided today was a good day to make a literal display of feelings in front of him with another one of those existing people, and did this possibly knowing he was strangling Grif's heart until it felt battered and bruised and beaten to a pulp.

After Grif arrived back at Red Base in the morning, his determination to talk to Simmons about something (... not something, everything--) faltered each time he approached his room.  A brief burst of courage, a fleeting flash of hope, dissipating the moment his hand raised to knock on the door, stilled and paralyzed as doubt flooded down his spine.  Several failed attempts later, he settled on waiting to see what Simmons' next actions were.

Grif waited anxiously for Simmons to leave his quarters (but not too anxiously, since they were simply going to talk, and talking is a normal thing that best friends do).  He laid along the couch in their common area, and may or may not have fallen asleep while definitely not-spying on Simmons' whereabouts.

Grif snapped out of his daze at the telltale subtle clanking and whirring from a cybernetic leg; sounds he hadn't realized had become so ingrained in his mind until actively listening for it.  He also didn't realize how comforting the sounds had become, tuning into them as they drew nearer.

... He also didn't realize how disconcerting the sounds could be in certain contexts, making this discovery as he heard the clanks and whirs streak past him and straight towards Blue Base.

Grif was suspicious-- he'd admit that.  (Sure, Simmons was avoiding him. But going specifically to Blue Base to do it?  And for what appeared to be the third time just this week, given his previous disappearances?)

He stayed on the couch, binging on Oreos, starting up the shitty Star Wars spoof Simmons mentioned a few days ago, ignoring the possibility that anyone who walked in the room would think he looked like he could use a tub of Rocky Road and ask if he wanted to talk about it.  (But it wasn't like that. Nope. Just-- it may have looked like that.  But that's not what it was.)

Grif was even more suspicious when Simmons returned with Wash, who decided to hang out in their kitchen and eat their Fritos for whatever reason-- probably as payback for stealing theirs the other day when he was not-avoiding Simmons.  But he tried not to be too accusatory about it when Simmons greeted him.

"Oh hey, this is that one mov--"

"Where the fuck have you been?"

"Uh, what?"

(Yeah, that wasn’t accusatory at all.)

And Simmons tried to play dumb and ignore the entire their conversation (go figure), which made Grif not quite in the mood to try and humor him.  And that made it kind of a shitty environment to talk about everything, so he eventually felt fed up enough to leave and sleep it off in his room.  Because he was just suspicious about the whole Simmons-ditching-him-for-Blues situation.  Especially given the comments that Caboose had made recently, and now he's apparently got Wash wrapped around his finger, too?  Who's next-- Carolina? Tucker ?  Oh God, Simmons has better taste than that, right?  But how can he say that considering what... Caboose just...

How could Grif not be... suspicious?

(No, no.  He was pissed.  Upset.  Devastated.  Because at first he thought Simmons was just going to hang out at Blue Base.  Which although wasn't cool, was much more acceptable than him going there to hang out with Caboose specifically.  And specifically to... cuddle... or talk about feelings.  Simmons fucking talked to Caboose about feelings before they did.  Were they-- no, they're not fucking dating,  right?  But Caboose fucking tells Simmons he loves him?  Did he mean it in the same way Grif felt-- Caboose said it to Simmons before he could-- wait, was he planning to tell Simmons he lov-- hold up.  Slow down.  Let's not go there right now.)

The fact is, Grif has known Simmons for much longer than Caboose.  Simmons never even spent that much time with the big oaf.  So, maybe things changed because the war's over for them, and they finally get to relax-- and Simmons thinks Caboose is the best person to do that with?  Grif  is the relaxing one!  No one can be more relaxed than him!  No one would be better to spend the rest of their life with!  Wait, did he want to spend the rest of his life with Simmons?  Well, he basically already spent his entire adult life with him every day.  He couldn't imagine a life without their bickering and laughing and touching and-- and he already admitted he really liked Simmons.  And Simmons was probably just confused because someone else so forwardly directed emotions at him and his brain imploded.  There's no way he felt that way about Caboose, he could prove it by, uh, saying the same things to see Simmons' reaction.  So... yeah.  That's a logical and objective argument (maybe not a great one, but it is one).  Simmons would... appreciate that.

Considering he's even thinking about this, after Simmons had gone astray from Red team ways, Simmons should be lucky he's got such a great... best friend.

... Best friend?

(Wait... they spent everyday together.  They went on dates-- even he could admit over the past decade or two there were times where it definitely felt more... intimate.  They held hands more than once.  They fell asleep together more than once.  And even though they had their spats, Simmons wouldn't spend as much time with him doing those things unless he liked him in some way.  And he was definitely in love with Simmons.  Oh-- fuck,  he was in love with Simmons.  Shit, when did-- fuck, fuck,  how long has he-- wait, wait.  It-- they-- they weren't best friends.  They were boyfriends.  Oh, holy shit.  Does Simmons know?  He should probably know and he probably doesn't.  Yeah, he should tell him, Simmons would appreciate that.  He'd be pretty upset if he wasn't even aware that he was ditching his own boyfriend that he didn't know he was dating.  Man, Simmons is so oblivious sometimes.  He's lucky he's got such a great boyfriend.  (... God that sounds fucking weird.  (... But also fucking right.)))

Even given the revelation that had him feeling much lighter than he could ever remember being in his life for some reason, Grif couldn't let Simmons walk away unscathed regarding the ditching thing and the stupid Caboose thing not-breaking his heart as it played out, whether it was intentional or not.  And one of Grif's favorite past times is messing with Simmons.  So naturally, glancing at the unread notifications that were all from the cyborg himself, he surmised that this was too good of an opportunity to shove everything right back in that stupidly oblivious nerd's face.  (And he definitely wasn't being petty at all.  Nope.)

Grif swiped his finger across the datapad and skimmed through the barrage of messages, all relaying woes about computers or Basebook stuff with the Blues (or whatever excuses Simmons was trying to come up with, he didn't bother reading all of it).

The last message from Simmons asked if they could talk.  Oh, Grif was going to make sure they talked, alright.  If there's one thing Grif knew about Simmons, it's that there were two instances where Simmons would freely speak his mind to the point where he'd slip up: the first being any sort of rambling about nerd-related interests (where he'd get too excited and admit something embarrassing), and the second being when he was having a meltdown (and absolutely losing his shit to try and make a point).

Grif began tapping out his reply.

// Grif: dude u type a lot. was sleeping chill tf out

Simmons responded immediately.

// Simmons: Oh. Yeah, haha sorry.  I was just trying to clarify what happened back there.  Did you read everything?

// Grif: meh enough i guess, why do u care about 'clarifying' it anyway

// Simmons: Okay, good, I guess.  And that's because I didn't want you to be confused about what Caboose said and didn't mean at all, in any way, ever.  And you know, so nobody would make any incorrect assumptions.

// Grif: ah k got it

// Grif: so when are u and boose telling everyone? or u guys eloping?

// Simmons: GOD FUCKING DAMNIT GRIF YOU DIDN'T READ ANYTHING DID YOU??

Grif smirked.  He almost felt bad about this.  Almost.  (He mostly felt bad about not being able to see Simmons' reactions in person.)

// Grif: was that ur guys way of asking me to be the best man

// Grif: cuz thats kinda fucked up dude esp after we slept together last nite

// Simmons: WHAT??  Don't make it sound like that!  This is all a huge misunderstanding.

// Grif: thats what it was tho, and no misunderstandings here, guess i wasn't as good as caboose hmm (thinking.emoji)

// Simmons: I can't fucking tell if you're being serious or not.

Grif slid out of bed and tiptoed out of his room, wanting to catch Simmons off-guard if he happened to be in his own.  Grif creaked the door open to peek inside, morbidly delighted to find out that he wasn't.  He leaned against the door frame and continued messaging.

// Grif: k i'll come over to ur room and we can talk, im sure its just a big misunderstanding like u said

// Grif: hey dick, where u at.

A message stating Simmons is typing... appeared and disappeared a few times over the next minute before the response blipped onto his screen.

// Simmons: Blue Base.

// Grif: huh. interesting.

// Simmons: I left my helmet and datapad in my room and I had to finish setting up their operating system, anyway, so that's why I'm on their computer.

// Simmons: really I mean it's not like I want to be here.

// Simmons: haha yeah like theres no need for me to be here just happened to be more convenient youd totally understand that

// Simmons: am i right ha ha

// Simmons: sorry i mean i didbt mean it liek that

Shit, if Simmons is so distracted that he allowed more than one typo to fall from his fingers, he must be genuinely suffering.

Mission accomplished.

And for the icing on the cake, Grif navigated to the button on Simmons' profile that said BLOCK, and promptly pressed it.

----

"Oh boy, I can't wait to see who slid into my DM's today!  I wonder how the gang's all doing!"

Donut sat on his bed with his legs swinging back and forth cheerfully, opening up Basebook on his tablet to see the latest news and gossip around the moon.  His interest piqued at a lengthy conversation that was being updated that very moment (between two of his favorite teammates, no less-- they must be really hitting it off!).

"Wait, what's this?  Oh, it looks like Simmons is writing on Grif's wall.  How silly, doesn't he know that's not a private mess-- oh, oh no!!"

As Donut frantically read through the conversation, his eyes widened in alarm further and further, finally resulting in his jaw dropping as he saw Grif's friend count go down by one.

"Grif, nooooooooooo!!"

----

Grif waited patiently, casually leaning at the entrance to Simmons' room, knowing that his action would ironically act as a summoning beacon compared to its intended function.  Not a minute later, Simmons loudly stomped into his view down the hallway.

"You fuck!"

Grif bit back a smug grin as Simmons marched over, grabbed his shoulder, and shoved him into the room, slamming the door shut behind them.

"You're so immature, did you seriously fucking block me?  Why would you do that?!  We live next to each other!!"  Simmons threw his hands in the air, watching as Grif dawdled over to sit on the edge of his bed.

"Dude, you're the passive-aggressive dickhead that put a block feature in a social media app used by nine people who all live together, like that's a fucking good idea," Grif scoffed.

"That-- that's beside the point!"  Simmons' rage flickered as he paused, arms falling to his sides.

Grif pointed his chin up.  "... So what's the point, then?"

"You're an idiot," Simmons concluded with a huff as he sat next to him, crossing his arms.  He still seemed to be contemplating, decoding something, studying Grif as if trying to read his mind through his eyes.  (Hmmm.  Now seemed like a perfect time to talk about feelings or whatever.  But he could rile up the guy a little more.  Yeah, no, he still wasn't being petty in any way.)

"No, the point is you're the idiot.  Caboose, really?" Grif droned judgmentally.

"I fucking told you--" Simmons seethed and grabbed Grif's forearm, but Grif immediately placed his other hand on Simmons'.  He mustered up the most overly dramatic, sorrowful voice possible.

"Yes, you told me through actions, Simmons.  Woe is me-- you're leaving me for another man."

"What?!  I-- I'm not leav-- that doesn't even--"

"I told you, you're an idiot, Simmons."  Grif's heart palpitated, unconsciously clutching Simmons' hand more tightly.  (Fuck, we're really doing this.  Okay.  At least he could say it jokingly so it didn't have to come out too sappy.  And Simmons would know he's still being serious because, well, this wasn't something they ever joked about.  Guess he knows why now.)  He took a deep breath.

"You'd trade your boyfriend who's loved you for who the fuck knows how many years for a dude that can barely count to three?  Sounds pretty stupid to me."

"I'm NOT... trading..."  Simmons' words trailed off as the admission began to mentally process.  And Grif was able to admire the glory that was Simmons' nuclear meltdown in the aftermath.  Grif tilted his head innocently, ignoring the flush blazing through his lighter, Simmons patches of skin.  He watched as a multitude of expressions cascaded across Simmons' features, the leaner man's eyes flitting between their intertwined hands and Grif's gaze.

The response was about what he expected.

"... What?  Wait... what?!   Are you fucking kidding me?!   You're fucking kidding me, right?  First of all, we're not boyfriends!  That would require us to actually fucking talk about it, and one of us to ask so it's an official title!"

"So... are you saying no to me asking?"

"What?!   Are-- are you being serious right now?  Don't you dare fuck with me about this, Grif--"

"Meh, I mean, unless you're already taken, given how earlier you two lovebirds--"

"And secondly-- are you seriously getting jealous?!   Of fucking Caboose?!"

"Hey, you're the one that kept ditching me for the past week to hang out with him apparently-- the fuck else am I supposed to think?!  Well, aside from after that movie night, I thought you peaced out because I kissed you and you lost your shit."

"Wait you-- you did-- when the f-- what?!  WHAT?! No, I-- I didn't-- I left because I woke up with morning wood-- uh, oh, shit, it doesn't, uh--"

"Oh dude, you had a boner?  That's hilarious, I love boners," Grif teased, pulling his hand off of Simmons' to slap him between his shoulder blades.  It lingered there for a moment before Grif gradually moved to grip his opposite shoulder, allowing his arm to fall and rest along the redhead's back.

Simmons hunched over and groaned, rubbing his face in exasperation.  (Even though they were talking about something,  they still danced around it using their standard feelings-deflecting conversation skills.  It was comforting, in a way.  At least they fell into old habits; more than he could hope considering he thought the nerd might've headed for the hills instead.  So... maybe things didn't have to be that different.  They were Grif and Simmons,  after all.  No stupid official title or whatever overvalued bullshit was going to change their system.)

Simmons peeked at Grif through his fingers, hands still enveloping his face.  He muffled into his palms, "... Thirdly, are you being serious about the, the..."

"The what, Simmons?  Use your big kid words."

"Fuck you!  The-- the 'L' thing!"

"'L' thing?  Still no idea what you're talking about.  Could be anything, like... licorice, or lasers, or--"

"Stop it, Grif--"  Simmons paused and shakily exhaled.  "... Are you in love with me?" Simmons asked quietly, hastily, voice pitching up slightly.

"Hmm, oh that?  Yeah," Grif answered easily with a lilt in his tone, although his heart was nearly thumping through his chest.  (Because if Simmons was asking about this so directly, then... he only does that when he's confident and sure of himself or has a mutual thought, so--)

"HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT SO CASUALLY, WHAT THE FUCK?!  DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG I'VE BEEN TRYING TO TELL YOU THIS--" Simmons hollered, not quite matching his body's movement as he slumped and settled more into Grif's side.

(Yep, there it is.)

Grif sighed through the swell of relief at the infuriated delivery, affectionately squeezing Simmons' shoulder.  (It would probably be better to work out everything once Simmons has chilled out a bit and had some time to parse through this on his own.  Not like it seemed as if that would happen any time soon.  Well, might be a good excuse to ask him on another... date?  Yeah, date.  Nice.)

"Hey, Simmons, maybe you should calm the fuck down a--"

"No, I'm not calming down, Grif, you're such a dumbass!  I need to-- we should fucking figure this out!"

"Hey, fuck you!  And yeah, we should!  And maybe we should do that while we hang out tonight!  Like at eight on the roof or something!"

"Y-Yeah, okay, fine!  And you better not be late, asshole!"

"Whatever, nerd, say that to a mirror-- I've been the one early and on time for all our dates."

"They weren't--!!  Wait, were those-- oh fuck--"

"Told you we were boyfriends."

And with that, Grif pushed himself off the bed and onto his feet.  He glanced down with a tiny smile tugging at his lips, before briskly ruffling Simmons' hair and taking to his heels.  Hearing the sputtering fuss behind him, Grif couldn't stop himself from brightly beaming as he left the room.

----

"... I think Grif left," Wash remarked with a strained tone, being nearly suffocated by Donut's excited embrace in the Donut Hole down the hall.  The ex-Freelancer moseyed on over to Red Base after seeing several messages pop up from Donut on their computer shortly after a very pale Simmons had unexpectedly departed.  Donut had yanked him by the scruff from the hallway when he arrived, starry-eyed and finger to his lips to hush Wash so they could overhear the entire exchange nearby.

"Oh my God.  Do you know what this means, Wash?!"

"Aside from losing twenty dollars, I can't say I know what you're referring to."

Donut pushed Wash forward to stand closely before him, gripping his shoulders tightly and staring at him with elation and determination.

"It means I get to plan their--"

"Wash, what the fuck?!  Donut?!  How come-- wait-- please just tell me you're pulling a Simmons on me and Donut is like Caboose and this isn't what it looks--" Tucker rambled as he barged into the room, apparently having followed Wash, or the commotion from Simmons' room was loud enough to warrant another not-spying eavesdropper.

Wash blinked at Tucker, stepping back out of Donut's grasp.  "Uh, what?"

Tucker blinked at Wash, before sighing in relief with a sheepish grimace.  "Oh shit, dude, nevermind. You're more dense than Grif."

"Excuse me?  What--"

Donut laughed under his breath mischievously.  "Well, I don't mean to interrupt another confession, but if you'll excuse me, boys.  I need to find Lopez to start choosing songs for the playlist, there's a lot of work that needs to be done!"

Tucker and Wash stood next to each other and watched as Donut left the room, sharing a glance before Tucker darted his eyes downwards with a slight blush.

"Another confession...?  I still don't get what's happening.  But I guess you win the bet," Wash stated with a coy smirk.

Tucker raised his chin to stare pensively at Wash for a few more moments.

"... Fuck it," he murmured.

Tucker grabbed Wash's wrist and tugged him forward until their lips met.

----

The date continued as expected.  Mostly.

Simmons asked if Grif had been sleeping on the roof all afternoon to prove his point about being early, and Grif simply patted the spot on the blanket next to him, asking the slacker to pull up a seat.  Simmons huffed but complied, sitting cross-legged a few inches away from Grif.

Grif asked if Simmons wanted anything to drink, and Simmons grumbled that he could probably use something after today.  Grif nodded, grabbing the pack of beers he brought up earlier, opening one to pass to Simmons.  Simmons regarded the bottle, momentarily pondering before taking a sip.

Simmons asked Grif if he remembered that this was the first brand they ever shared together, and Grif hummed in affirmation.  He mused that it wasn't exactly uncommon, even though everyone preferred the other types they had in their food storage.  Simmons hummed in understanding.

Grif asked if that's why Simmons brought the same kind to the beach, and Simmons flushed, avoiding answering by reminding Grif that he didn't even say thanks for packing everything yesterday.  Grif informed that he always says thanks but not in a sappy way, because that's how their system always worked.  He scooted closer to Simmons, placing his palm on the ground behind Simmons.  Simmons leaned into Grif, resting back against the length of his arm.

Simmons stammered out a disjointed set of words, eventually making enough sense for Grif to translate that he was asking about how he kissed him the other day, and Grif's heart skipped a beat.

Grif nervously asked Simmons if he wanted him to show rather than tell, and Simmons' heart skipped a beat, body stiffening as he fervently nodded.  Grif raised his hand to the top of Simmons' head, lightly brushing his fingers through red tufts of hair, before craning his neck to plant his lips on Simmons' forehead.

Simmons appeared to be speechless as Grif drew away to his original position, before swallowing and asking if Grif could reposition and cross his legs, and Grif tilted his head curiously but obeyed the request.  Simmons hurriedly occupied the space between Grif's legs, sitting half on the floor and half in his lap, settling his back against Grif's chest.

Grif slowly wrapped his arms around Simmons' midriff, asking with embarrassment if that was more mutual and romantic than his first attempt, and Simmons burst out a short, quiet laugh, saying he wouldn't know but it was more than likely the case.

Simmons hesitated before mentioning that he neglected to say the "'L' thing" in return earlier, and Grif said to stop calling it that and that he totally did say it, and Simmons said not directly, and Grif said he technically didn't say it directly himself, either.  They both nodded silently in agreement.

Simmons quickly twisted around in Grif's lap to kiss him, and Grif swore he could feel the stars radiating enough to tear open the night sky above them.  He softly responded, pressing back, before a swift progression of ardor swept them both into a blurred, dizzying state.

Grif insistently parted Simmons' mouth, and Simmons hungrily deepened the kiss with every twirl of their tongues.  Simmons clawed at Grif's collarbone, while Grif slid a hand under Simmons' shirt to clutch his side, tenderly pressing and circling his thumb along his hip.  Everything around them evaporated, creating a world for just the two of them, both men breathless, heavy-lidded, and overtaken by a wondrous sensation neither could have ever conceived before that moment.

Grif and Simmons meekly separated, panting and catching their breaths, appraising the dancing lights in each others' eyes.  "I love you," they said synchronously, smiling with sincerity and heated cheeks, before Donut's squealing attracted their attention and sent them hurtling out of their passionate haze.  They snapped towards the intruding teammate, whose head popped over the wall as he clung to the ladder leading to the rooftop.

Simmons squawked at Donut while he tried to hastily climb out of Grif's lap, and Grif held him in place, squeezing his waist and advising that they were busy.  He was pretty sure he could feel Simmons' heart rate increase with every beat.

Donut happily hollered back to meet at Blue Base in five minutes for the party, and Grif and Simmons looked at each other with suspicion before simultaneously telling Donut to fuck off.  Donut fucked off, apparently to prepare for their arrival.

Simmons raised himself off the ground first, offering his hand, and Grif grabbed it and pulled himself up to stand closely against Simmons.  Simmons laced their fingers together and led them to the ladder to proceed towards whatever nightmare was in store for them next door.

----

"Surprise!!" Caboose shouted with glee, throwing himself onto Simmons the moment he stepped through the door.  Nearly having the wind knocked out of him, he strained to peer over Caboose's shoulder and let out a stifled cry for help.  Grif waved with a smirk and walked past the two towards the Reds and Blues gathered around the common area and kitchen.

Tucker's eyes lit up, vaulting off of his chair to greet Grif with a shoulder jab.

"Grif, my man!  About time, am I right?"

"What the hell is all this, Tucker?" Grif asked, smirk unbroken as he observed his surroundings with amusement.

Donut wore an apron that read Kiss the Cook,  except one of the O's in cook was replaced with a C.  He raced back and forth between the kitchen and living room to set out different food platters and drinks.  Sarge stepped inside for a moment, wearing an apron that said Grill Sergeant, evidently forced to be Donut's assistant.

"Sarge, how the hell did Donut convince you to help?"

Sarge welcomed him with a snort.  "As soon as I heard there was going to be flames and potential public embarrassment involving a useless moron like yourself, it became my duty to ensure everything went as fiery and embarrassing as possible."

"Yeah, well, those are your specialties," Grif said under his breath as Sarge marched away.

Lopez stiffly stood in a corner with a tiny party hat on his head.  Grif laughed mockingly, "What's up with that, Lopez?" pointing at his cabeza.  "How'd they get it on you without someone being hospitalized?"

"Caboose me dio el sombrero de fiesta, no sé lo que estamos celebrando. En todo caso, deberíamos castigarlos idiotas por no descubrir su estúpido romance antes." ["Caboose gave me this, I don't know what we're celebrating.  If anything, we should be punishing you idiots for not figuring out your stupid romance sooner." ]

"Nice one, Lopez, you tell that dirtbag whatfor!" Sarge guffawed from the other room.

Wash was standing on a chair, Carolina holding his legs for balance, as he took down a large sign made from craft paper off of the wall.  It appeared to have the words Happy Best Friend Party!! written in blue, red, and orange crayons that were crossed out, with the new words congrats on the sex ;) replacing it underneath.

Simmons walked up behind Grif with Caboose tagging along closely behind him, and made a choking sound upon reading the sign.

"Hey, stupid Tucker ruined my sign," Caboose pouted.

"Sorry, Simmons.  I tried to take it down before you guys showed up," said Wash as Carolina helped lower him back to the ground.

"So... did you guys actually slow dance, or...?" Wash gave Simmons a sly grin.

Simmons blushed and punched his shoulder roughly.  "You're spending too much time with Tucker."  He glanced at Grif, who gravitated towards a bowl of chips nearby.  Simmons continued, "So, what the hell is this all about?  Donut usually sends invitations a week in advance, so--"

Donut interrupted, voice amplified by a wireless microphone, "That's because Grif and I have a legally binding contract and there's no way I'm letting him get out of it, it's now or never!!  Grif, stop stuffing your face and get up here!"

The next half an hour or so were a blur.

The warthog's polka music began to play from the corner Lopez was otherwise silently affixed to.

Wash and Tucker carried out a massive cake decorated with Oreos and two miniature plastic animals on the top tier, a giraffe and a hippo.  Carolina helped Caboose pick the animals out of his collection earlier that evening.

Donut held Grif's wrist and forced him to stand up on their coffee table in the middle of the room.  Donut began to say some sort of speech, but began to sob uncontrollably before he could get the first few words out (something about friendship and growth and vows, Grif couldn't really make all of it out due to the enraptured blubbering).  Grif kneeled down to grab another handful of chips to munch on.

Simmons nearly jumped out of his skin as Sarge stood next to him, looping their arms together with a grunt.  He muttered something about doing things old-fashioned and proper for his second in command as he walked Simmons over to the table.

Tucker sniffled against Wash's neck, the latter taking in the events with mirth while embracing the shorter man, rubbing his back in a comforting motion.

Carolina carried a basket full of origami flowers that she crafted with Donut, tossing them unceremoniously and directly at the people around the room.

Caboose was visibly shaking from excitement, broadcasting a brilliant smile that brightened the entire base.  He handed a small object to both Grif and Simmons; Simmons' ring was cheaply ornamented with a plastic spider, and Grif was given a mood ring band.

Grif looked down at Simmons, standing awkwardly on top of the table next to a man having an emotional breakdown.  Simmons looked up at Grif, standing awkwardly next to the table next to an older man who seemed to be having a different kind of breakdown, although still emotional.

They both shared a bewildered look, before nodding knowingly.  Simmons took Grif's hand, making brisk strides towards the exit.

The warthog outside had empty cans of headlight fluid attached by long strings trailing off the back.  The words just married were written on the windshield, but "married" was crossed off and replaced with "bone already" with a crudely drawn dick next to it.  The couple jumped in the vehicle and drove the fuck out of sight.

----

"Hey."  Simmons dangled his feet over the ledge overseeing the small swimming hole, hand resting on Grif's chest.

"Yeah?"  Grif laid along the rock, head in Simmons' lap.

"... What the fuck just happened?"

"Uh... I think we just got forcibly married by our stupid friends."

"Weren't we already married, though?"

"Oh yeah," Grif chortled.  "Man, that wedding reception was boring as fuck.  At least I got to eat the whole cake, though."

"Do you want the spider?"

"Sure, you're the moodier one, anyway."  Grif grinned as they traded their novelty rings and pocketed them.

The two sat in comfortable, content silence as Simmons swept his hand lightly across Grif's torso.

"So...," Grif started with a playful tone, "How do you wanna celebrate our honeymoon?"

Simmons slapped his gut after Grif waggled his eyebrows suggestively, causing him to expel a punched half-laugh and half-"oof" sound.  "You're a perv, Grif," he said dismissively.  He slid his hand over Grif's and wove their fingers together.

"We could pick up where we left off from-- wait!  Simmons, that reminds me, there's something I've been meaning to ask you."

Grif sat up and stared at him earnestly, gripping Simmons' hand tighter.

"... Does your dick actually glow or what?"

"Oh my God, Grif, are you fucking serious?  First of all, how have you not seen it in the however many years we've known each other?"

"I'unno, I guess I'm not a total horndog like you, I've never checked out my best friend in the showers before," Grif taunted.  Simmons lost his composure and began to sputter random syllables.

"Oh wait, you've seen mine?  So... whadd'you think?  You could check it out more closely, if you want," Grif teased.

"Keep it up and that's happening later rather than sooner," Simmons deadpanned.

"Yeah right, you can't keep your hands off of me."  Grif smugly held up Simmons' hand still in his grasp to prove his point.

Simmons huffed and rolled his eyes.  He deliberated for a few seconds before placing his other hand against the crook of Grif's neck, thumb feathering his jaw.

"Guess you're right.  Asshole."  Simmons and Grif shared another soft, passionate kiss.

The rest of the night was spent talking about nothing, touching, cuddling, talking about something, kissing, laughing, but mostly talking about everything.  Yep, their system didn't just work; it was perfect.