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Gordon and Benrey Play Video Games

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Benrey’s apartment is dark and messy. This is the natural state of his front room - it’s nothing new. Yet Freeman enters and sees all the old imperfections afresh. He sees what he always sees: the piles of unwashed laundry, the knots of tangled cables, the empty food containers, and he can’t stand it, suddenly. He shudders at the mess and mould and junk. And this is it’s natural state! The state it gravitates to, time and time again. It’s nothing new, but - something in the sweet smell of unwashed clothes, rotting flowers, poorly masked by the ‘clean linen’ scented air-freshener - it is all of it too much, suddenly.

Usually Freeman likes the mess. Usually it’s warm. Friendly. Comfortable.

Yet today he stares from the doorway, and his grip tightens into a fist around the crowbar in his hand.

“What the fuck is this.” Freeman says, flatly.

Benrey does not react.

“This is what you’re doing. This,” Freeman repeats, in a voice as flat and blank as paper. “This is what you’re doing.”

“huh?”

The security guard is sitting on his couch playing video games, the way he always does. Nothing has changed. It’s nothing new. The other guy turns his head an inch, just slightly, and looks over. And then his gaze flicks back to the game.

“welcome. very much.” Benrey’s eyes flicker over again. He says, “m kinda busy though, do you mind?”

Freeman comes in. He slams the door behind and makes his way around the couch, through the mess, talking at him. “Look at these cables! Knotted, a goddamn fire hazard, that’s what this is.” All his dissatisfactions pour out. “If there’s a fire, a fire, this whole place is gonna burn. Is that how you want to go, huh? Playing games, surrounded by filth? After everything, after everything, you die like this?”

Benrey stares at Freeman directly, stopping him dead, and says-

“pause.”

And Gordon pauses.

“if you’re gonna come in and be, uhhh, mad at me?” The other guy nods over to the door. “you can. mm. fuck off please?”

Gordon jerks his head ‘no’. A tiny shake. His hand slackens around the crowbar handle; he puts it down; and he goes into the kitchen to recover himself. He presses pause on the conversation, counts backwards from fifty. Breathes deep, lets it go. It’s not that these frustrations are new. It’s just - he's tense today, that's all - but no, no. Freeman won’t go there. They can say ‘fuck off’ a thousand times a day, and it never means ‘stop’. But when someone says ‘pause’, that’s the word they use to signal that things have gone a bit too far. That’s the word they say when they really mean it.

Out the kitchen window, Freeman hears a movie playing from somewhere, from someone’s TV. A voice from the movie says:

“That’s perfect for you. But for me, there’s still something missing.”

And while in the kitchen, Freeman makes a sandwich for the other guy. As an apology. ‘Sorry’ is not a word these two can say outright, not to each other, not even if the sky was falling down. Too late he notices the bread has mould. That’s life, huh? The sandwich is already made, so it’s too late, you can only live with the mould. So Freeman just clicks his tongue and picks off the spots. Benrey eats glass. It’s not like he’ll care.

All these little dissatisfactions. He has lived around them every day before today. Why bother now? 

Freeman breathes, and goes back in.

This time he sits silent on the couch beside Benrey, and passes the sandwich across as a mute apology. And Benrey mutely accepts it: apology received.

“So, Tommy-“ Gordon clears his throat. “-Tommy is going on a holiday today, he said. G-man and Tommy, father-son bonding. He wants to see the world, he said, he wants to visit the ‘uhh, world’s largest soda can, Mister Freeman!’”

“huh.”

“He said I could come too, but I - it’s a father-son holiday, I - I didn’t want to get in the way.”

“yeah, that’s fair.” The security guard agrees. “you can’t    uhh be trusted. you’d steal it just by walking past, huh? you can’t help it. you walk past and it’s like gravity. like an event horizon black hole, stealing shit.”

Gordon pauses. Benrey no longer has power to perplex him, but there are still some sentences that defy all comprehension. Freeman’s poor brain struggles to parse this statement, and fails.

“Huh?”

The annoying bastard mimics him mockingly. “hu-uh?”

“What the fuck - are you deadass implying I’d steal the world’s largest soda can?”

“if anyone could do it,” Benrey says, supportively.

“I can’t believe you.”

Benrey eats the mouldy sandwich in three bites. And then he goes back to playing his video games, in his messy living room, the way he always does. Gordon puts his elbow up on the armrest of the couch and drops his chin into his hand to watch whatever’s happening on screen. Like he always does.

“think it’s in Canada.” Benrey says, idly.

Freeman’s head lifts. “What?”

“word’s largest soda can. think it’s in Canada.”

“You’ve been there?”

“nah bro, I just heard it’s in Canada, that’s.    what I heard. what were you askin?”

Gordon watches what’s happening on screen. It’s a two-player game, but Benrey’s dual-wielding controllers.

The other guy shoots him a glance.

“You said goodbye to Tommy, right?” Freeman asks, after a while.

Benrey looks at him sidelong, then returns to the game. “duh. you?”

“Du-uh.” Freeman mimics, mockingly. “Of course I did. And Bubby, Coomer…?”

“ya-huh.”

“Cool.”

“they’re on the roof. did you see it? playing their movie so fuckin loud though, holy shit, I had to shout out the window at em.    guess what movie they’re watching tho?”

“…What?”

“all dogs go to heaven 2.”

“Bastards. Without us? Bastards. I’ve been meaning to watch that.” Gordon says, wistfully. “Should’ve before now, obviously, but.”

“chill, they only been going uhh ten minutes? we could still tune in. movie night.”

“Yeah, but it’s - how long is it? An hour and a half? When it happens, we’ll miss the ending.”

“it’s okay, we know how.    the movie ends. ‘all dogs go to heaven 2’ spoilers, but. there is a very tragic final scene… quite sad. quite sad. the loathsome death of Gordon Freeman. ”

“Fuck off,” Gordon Freeman says, and doesn’t really mean it.

It’s a two-player game, but this guy - this guy is playing it alone. He’s using local co-player to play on both controllers, on both halves of the screen. The top half of the television shows a gun-wielding soldier running wild, maxing out on power-ups. The bottom half of the screen shows a second soldier whacking walls with a machete. Split screen functionality, top and bottom, and this guy’s playing both.

There’s an inappropriate joke there, probably, about tops and bottoms, but Gordon doesn’t try for it. He hasn’t got it in him. Not now, not today.

The frustrating thing is this: if both characters were in the same location, on the same area of the map, the split-screen would switch to a single camera viewpoint. If the characters were less far apart, if they were closer together, the divide would disappear. But does Benrey fix it? Of course not! He struggles stubbornly, because that’s just how he is. Even today of all days. Not fire nor flood, not storm nor rain will stay his hand. He’ll play the damn game if it’s the last thing he does: two halves of the screen, two controllers, two characters. And Benrey: stubbornly playing both characters on his own.

“I can’t believe you’re doing this.” Freeman mutters.

“huh?”

“Don’t worry about it. Don’t - don’t worry.” Freeman racks his brain for an ordinary compliment. “You’re playing fine. Keep going.”

In response, Benrey bashes up about a thousand wooden crates, with both controllers, both characters, on both halves of the screen. The cacophony of noise is absolutely horrendous but Freeman feels acknowledged, at least.

“So here’s a hypothetical question for you.”

“question?”

“Question. If you had an hour to live,” Freeman asks, “What would you do?”

He snorts. “you’re asking now? umm, okay?”

“Why not now? When else? Just answer the question, holy shit.”

Benrey pulls out his phone to check the time. A wall of unread messages and calls assault him as soon as he turns it on. Gordon glimpses a couple as he scrolls past - all the same bullshit notifications he got, all the same warnings circulating in a desperate frenzy online - and he flips past all of it. He turns off his internet, turns off his phone, and begins to eat it as easily as he ate the mouldy sandwich. The metal and glass make a horrible crunching noice, and Freeman winces, but Benrey wears an expression of utter boredom.

“forty two minutes,” he says, still chewing glass.

“Don’t talk with your mouth full.” Freeman says, both disgusted and unnerved.

“fuh-tee two mi-nuh?” Benrey snarks, and chews louder, gnashing teeth and snapping metal like a heavy duty shredder. If he were human, the inside of his mouth would be cut to bloody ribbons - but because it’s Benrey, it’s just a gross, obnoxious gesture, done with the sole intention of annoying Gordon.

“Fine! What would you do if you had forty two minutes to live?”

“same as always.”

“Ugh, you’re completely impossible.” Gordon fidgets in his seat. He picks lint off the armrest, attention fluttering. He draws his legs up onto the couch and curls in on himself.  “You’re meant to say something badass - something original - something you’ve always wanted to do, but you were always too chicken to deal with the consequences. Like - hypothetically - confess to your best friend, tell him you love him, ruin the friendship. Hypothetically! That’s just an example. Or like, I don’t know. Steal a car and drive to Miami.”

Benrey snorts. “ex-cuse me?”

“What?”

“why Miami?”

“I don’t know! I’ve never been. That’s the point - you’re meant to do something you’ve never done before. Something more than this, c’mon man. Bucket list shit. What would you do?”

“not fuckin Miami?” he says, laughing.

“Stop it, oh my god, fuck off.” Gordon says, and as always, he doesn’t really mean it. He stands up to leave. “Anyway, whatever. I was only dropping in on my way to the store. It just pissed me off that this - this is what you’re doing.”

“the same shit I always do?”

“Exactly. But no, no, keep going. Don’t let me stop you. You want anything from the store?”

“pizza?”

“I’m not getting you pizza.”

Benrey doesn’t acknowledge the refusal. “pizza please? don’t steal.”

“Everything’s free now, idiot.”

“for real? woah, what the fuck? that’s fuckin sick.”

Gordon shakes his head. He doesn’t say goodbye as he leaves the apartment, just closes the door behind him with a quiet ‘click’.

On the pavement outside he looks back. He can see onto the roof of Benrey’s apartment from here, and he can see Bubby and Coomer on top of it, with two deckchairs and a pile of guns. They’re watching TV. To be more precise, they’re watching a movie. To be even more precise, they’re watching ‘All Dogs Go To Heaven 2’. Without him, the bastards! And they must have the volume dialled up as far as it will go, because Freeman can hear it playing from the street.

“-If you’ve got plans to fall in love - beyond a shadow of a doubt-”

The bastards! Freeman shakes his head and turns his back. Very deliberately, he doesn’t look up at the sky. There’s nothing up there that he wants to see. As he walks away, he hears the movie fading behind him.

“-Baby! Count me out.”

There’s people around, but they run past him at a sprint, all of them focused and urgent and distressed. They’re running home, Freeman assumes. Families, spouses, pets - they want to be with their loved ones, probably. Freeman passes a group of kids at the skate park passing around a bottle of something. He bites back the urge to tell them to go home. It’s just the one bottle, they’re not hurting anyone, and hell, if they could go home, they’d be there, wouldn’t they?

The corner store cashier couldn’t give less of a crap about the chaos. She’s reading something on her phone, and barely bats an eye at Gordon as he comes in. The little bell rings cheerfully.

“Everything’s a hundred-per-cent off.” The cashier says, without glancing up from her phone.

“Thanks.”

“If you want a beer, just ask.” She jerks her head towards the locked drinks cabinet behind her.

Gordon thinks about it. “Whiskey?”

“Sure.”

The cashier gets down a small bottle of whiskey without bothering to check the label or the price. It’s whiskey, not bleach: that’s all she seems to care. Frankly, that’s all Freeman cares about as well. He gets out his wallet instinctively, and she runs the purchase through instinctively, and then they both look at each other with the awkwardness of a mutual mistake. ‘Oh, oops’. And then they both shrug it away, because it really doesn’t matter if he pays or not.

“Wait,” Freeman runs into the obvious problem: the top of the bottle is still plastic-sealed. “Hold on - do you have a - a pair of scissors, or-?”

The cashier pulls a jack-knife out of her pocket and snaps the plastic off with a practiced little flick, like she’s used to doing it, then hands him the bottle back.

“Thanks.” Freeman says, eventually. “Look, don’t you have - anyone? Anywhere you’d rather be?”

She goes back to reading on her phone. “No. I’m good.”

“For real. What would you do if you had-“ he checks the time. “Half-an-hour to live?”

“Read porn,” the cashier answers, not looking away from her phone.

“Ah.”

“Least I’m honest. I’ll die how I lived.” Without looking, she reaches up on the shelf behind and pulls down the first bottle her fingers find. “Besides. They say it could miss, don’t they?”

Gordon pauses halfway out the door. “…What?”

“That’s what they say.”

“It could miss?”

“Sure. Doesn’t hurt to hope, right?”

Does it hurt to hope? Gordon walks out, and the bell jingles cheerfully behind him. It’s hot outside - almost too hot to bear - but it’ll get hotter yet. With a little whiskey in him, Gordon feels brave enough to look up at the sky, and he can see it, almost. The meteor. At the moment it looks like the first star in the violet sky, it’s barely a pinprick in the twilight. The arc is very gradual. By the time it’s the size of the moon it’ll be too late, it’ll be coming too fast. And when it hits - when it happens - it’ll be completely instantaneous. The end, fade to black, a sentence severed halfway through. Everything will just-

Does it hurt to hope that it might miss them - might glide past by a hair, might pass by harmlessly? If it hits, if it misses - it won’t hurt, right?

Freeman drinks his whiskey out of the bottle, and keeps his head down, wandering. Halfway through it, he’s feeling nicely buzzed. Pleasantly relaxed. For all the chaos he doesn’t want to see, there’s moments of daily routine as well. An old lady, watering her plants. Some guy, walking his dog. Until it doesn’t, life goes on, and it’s a nice afternoon, really! Nice lighting, nice sunset. And the way the clouds glow reminds Gordon of how those old renaissance artists pictured heaven, with the colours, and the angels, and before he knows it he’s back at Benrey’s apartment.

He doesn’t remember walking there. He didn’t mean to. It’s instinctive: all those times he came over to play video games. He wanted to go home, that’s all. He wasn’t thinking.

Doctor Bubby and Doctor Coomer are still watching TV up on the roof of Benrey’s apartment. They’ve got their deckchairs set up beside their massive pile of guns, they’ve got their movie blasting. On the screen plays the typical nineties flick: talking animals, big city backdrop, cheesy dialogue. They’re still watching ‘All Dogs Go To Heaven 2’, and Freeman knows this, because he can hear it from the sidewalk.

“Just a little. More. Time,” says a voice on the TV. 

Freeman waves. But the scientists are both looking up at the oncoming meteor. Bubby glares with a fierce intensity, like he’d fight and dethrone god if he could, teeth bared in an eager grimace. Ready to bite the sky. It feels like there should be blood in his teeth, that’s the kind of grin it is, and his glasses catch the last of the dying light like fire.

“Bubby! Coomer!”

Just Coomer hears. And his expression, when he looks down at Gordon, is completely peaceful. His rage is at peace with itself. And when he waves back at Gordon he smiles just like he usually does, big and cheerful and bright, and it feels completely genuine. It feels natural. Is he crying?

“Goodbye, Gordon!”

“See you, Doctor Coomer.”

These bastards aren’t going gentle into that good night. They’re too stubborn. When the sky falls, they’ll go down guns blazing. Together.

Freeman lets himself back into Benrey’s apartment. It’s dark and messy, as always. There are piles of unwashed laundry, knots of tangled cables, empty food containers - and it’s nothing new. He’s lived with it every day before today without an issue. And he stares from the doorway, he breathes in the smell of ‘clean linen’ scented air freshener, and he breathes out a sigh. Benrey hasn’t moved an inch. He’s sitting in the same place he always does when Gordon comes over to play video games, on his half of the two-person couch, and it’s the easiest thing in the world for Gordon to fall into his usual place next to him. His body remembers. He tips his head back and drinks whiskey out of the bottle. Forget heaven - he’s fine here.

“so how was Miami Florida?” the security guard asks, idly.

Freeman doesn’t hear. He can’t stop staring at Benrey, for some reason. It’s fine - he’s being careful, the other guy’s still watching the screen - he hasn’t noticed. Freeman’s not sure why he’s so fascinated suddenly, except that he’s having serious trouble looking away. Benrey doesn’t notice.

“what the fuck was going on in Miami, bro?”

“Oh.” Freeman’s mind catches up. He pulls a lie out of his ass. “Miami Florida? It was. There. But, you know, mission accomplished, tick it off the bucket list.”

“nice. how’d you get there so fast, you teleporting? can you fly?”

“What the-? No. I stole a plane.”

“oh yo, you stole and I told you not to. and everything.” Benrey clicks his tongue. “man you should’ve asked me? I would’ve helped.”

“You would have-?” Freeman reaches over in a spirited attempt to strangle Benrey to death, but misses, and slumps over on the couch. “Woah, what the fuck? Hello. I hate you.”

“hello?”

“Where’s my. Where’d my juice go.”

Freeman’s lying down across the middle border of the couch cushions, and his head is just shy of Benrey’s thigh. Somehow, his whiskey ended up on the floor. He reaches down for it but it’s too late, the bottle is nearly empty, and he makes a small noise of disappointment. Benrey pauses the game to pat him on the head condescendingly: there, there. Pat, pat. Freeman’s eyes narrow. It just feels patronising: it only adds to his pain. It’s almost sweet, really, the way the other guy knows exactly how to press his buttons. He can rub salt in the wound without saying a single word.

“Fuck off.” Gordon says, and every time he says it, he means something else.

It doesn’t matter what the game is - something open-world, looks like - but the split-screen perspective is really pissing him off. The way the cameras swing around make him feel sick and dizzy, and the thing is, it’s so easy to fix. If both characters were in the same room - if both players were closer together on the map - the camera would switch to a single viewpoint. But does Benrey care? Of course not, the frustrating bastard.

“So, Tommy- Tommy is going on a holiday with his dad, he said.”

“huh.”

“And, Bubby-“ says Gordon. “-Bubby and Coomer are on the roof. When it, when the meteor gets close, I think they’re gonna shoot it. Go down guns blazing. Liter. Literally.”

“nice. very bad ass.”

“I’m not judging. Old age should burn and rage, and all that.”

“and are uhhh aren’t you gonna be a the bad ass?”

“Nope.”

“that is fair.” Benrey declares with authority. “your ass is so bad already, it’s uhh. straight up disgusting? jiggle physics unrealistic. worst ass in the world. to look upon.”

“Just shut. The fuck up.”

"shut?"

"Pause."

And Benrey pauses.

“So this is.” Freeman asks, when he can manage the words. “Is this what we’re doing?”

“this?”

“Yeah, the. This same thing we always do. This is how you wanna go?”

“yeah uh.” Benrey smacks his lips disapprovingly. “it would have been better with a pizza, tho? hint hint. where is it.”

“I never agreed - I specifically said I would not get you a pizza.”

“bro, what the fuck?” he sounds honestly wounded. “bro, you didn’t get me a pizza?”

“I never-! I told you I wouldn’t!”

“bro.” Benrey says, heartbroken.

He’s still playing the same damn game. The top half of the screen has Benrey’s ridiculous little avatar, breaking boxes in some poor NPC’s house. The bottom half of the screen is a forest of some kind, and a little character running circles in a clearing. They’re sitting where they always do, doing what they always do. It’s not badass, or original or bucket list worthy. It’s nothing new. And yet - if he had an hour to live, this is what Gordon would do. Just another hour of playing video games, pleasantly drunk, fucking with Benrey.

“Hey. Hey, here’s a, here’s the deal. I will get you a pizza. Tomorrow.”

“tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow, I will get you a pizza.”

“oh okay that’s fine then. that’s a good. good deal.”

It’s an impossible bargain, but Benrey doesn’t seem to mind. And Freeman does genuinely mean it: tomorrow he genuinely will get the other guy a pizza. Hell, he’ll make it himself if he has to. It’s less about the bargain, and more about the future. The hope that there might be one. And it could have pizza.

“Okay. Now give me the second controller.”

“nope.”

“It’s a two-player game, I’m sick of this fuckin split-screen, gimme the second controller.”

Benrey hugs them both to his chest protectively. “nop. you’re suck so hard. vacuum cleaner boy ha ha.”

“Oh ye of little faith. Gimme.”

“no.” Benrey says, shortly and with a great amount of satisfaction.

Gordon sighs and runs his thumb idly around the lip of the whiskey bottle. It’s not an aware thing, it’s not a conscious action. The bottle is almost empty.

“What would you do?” he asks, eventually. “If you had. Uhh. What is it now? Fifteen minutes? Ha ha, shit. Fifteen minutes left, what would you do? You don’t want to - fuck a stranger, or - tell someone you love them - or ruin a friendship, I dunno. Shit. Shit. Shit.”

“oh, yo!”

Benrey stands up, and the movement is so sudden that Gordon launches upright too. It’s an automatic knee-jerk reaction. But as he stands the room spins around him, and reality unravels, and in other words he has to sit down again to keep from falling over.

“that reminds me.”

“What? What?”

“I need to take a shit.”

Freeman feels like he’s going insane. “Ha ha! Unbelievable! Are we really doing this? For real right now, are you messing with me?”

“hell yeah bro.”

“This is how we’re going down?”

And Benrey leans down, leans close. Freeman can’t back away. He’s trapped on the lounge with Benrey leaning in, his face all dark, his voice low, and when he speaks Freeman feels the breath of it on his face.

“all the way to the end. I’ll mess wit you forever, man, all the way right to the end.” Benrey confesses quietly, and pats him on the cheek a little too hard, and goes to take a shit.

It’s more of a slap, really. A condescending open-palm double pat, like a kick in the teeth. There, there. Insult to injury. His cheek stings. But Freeman presses a hand to it as tenderly as if it were a kiss. No-one else - there’s no-one else he’d take this shit from. Salt in the wound. And whenever he says ‘fuck off’ he means something different - something more romantic. Something more along the lines of ‘I hate you’ and ‘if we only had an hour to live, I’d spend it on your couch, you asshole’.

“Fuck off,” Freeman shouts at the distant bathroom door, with feeling. And then he knocks back the last of the whiskey, wipes his brain clear, and steals the second game controller off Benrey’s side of the couch before he comes back.

“you don’t need to piss?”

“No. Tell me something - were you just gonna sit here for the last ten minutes, playing one half of a two-player game?”

“nah.” The security guard falls back onto the couch beside him. “knew you’d come back.”

“You didn’t, you liar.”

“did too.”

“Did not.”

“did too!”

“You did not! I could’ve - gone anywhere, done anything. I should’ve, I had time.”

“neuh nueh mneuh.” Benrey says, mocking. “coulda woulda shoulda - but ya didn’t, you came back, huh?”

Freeman can’t think of a sharp reply in time, which obviously means Benrey’s won this round. He settles instead for running around the video game. The two-player split screen is driving him insane, but Gordon’s played this game before, and he knows that if he can only find Benrey on the map - if their characters are close enough - the camera will switch to a single viewpoint. Maybe it’s that he’s drunk. Maybe it’s some other urgency. But whatever it is, it suddenly becomes the most important thing in the world that he finds Benrey’s little avatar, and stands next to him, and the in-game camera switches to a single perspective.

“anyway if you didn’t. you had to come back from Mianmi, yanno? otherwise I woulda uhh been playin a two-person video game alone. woulda sucked. so you had to, that’s all I’m saying. had to say good bye, didn ya?”

“What the fuck are you rambling about? Where are you?”

Benrey snorts and gives him a judgemental sideways glance. “um. right here.”

“In the game, dickhead, where’s your character? I wanna change this stupid fucking split-screen camera, it’s giving me a headache.”

Benrey leans forward with the same sudden urgency. “uhh. yeah. yeah. meat you at… the clock tower.”

“Where?”

“village. near spawn.”

“Clock tower, got it.”

Both of them feel it now, that strange sense of emergency. Like nothing else matters except getting their characters to meet up in the game, like there is nothing more important. And there isn’t - in the world at this moment, there is nothing more important. No time to waste, this is the utmost priority, that Gordon’s character runs at a dead sprint towards the clock tower, and that on the top half of the split screen, Benrey is running to meet him there.

“I hope,” Gordon says, half-concentrating, focused on the game. “I said goodbye to everyone.”

“huh? what about me?”

But Freeman’s little character is running through a forest and he has to concentrate on dodging trees, so he can’t answer immediately. He sprints straight through, not stopping for paths or enemies, not pausing to admire the rushing stream, the water physics. In passing he gets the impression of a shielded grove, of dappled light and cool green shadows, of an unseen canopy overhead offering protection from the glaring sun. The green walls rise around him, catching the sunlight in a shifting net of leaves and branches, but! Gordon is through, with a clear shot to the town.

“Right, so.” Freeman swallows. “Tommy. Bubby. Coomer. Is that it? Did I forget anyone?”

But Benrey’s too busy running to answer.

Gordon swallows. His sense of time is gone. How long left? Is there anything he wants to say, anything he wants to confess, anything he wants to do at the very last minute, at the very last instant, before it happens? It’s the worst thing in the world, because the pressure sends his brain completely blank. He can’t think of a single thing at all. He’s just running.

The camera stutters. Gordon loops back, trying to find-

And there he is, there he is, there he is.

The split disappears. The video game takes up the whole screen now, except there are two little player-characters running mad circles around each other under the shadow of the clocktower. Benrey. Gordon. If they’d been too late, they’d never have known. Everything would have just stopped, fade to black, the end. A sentence severed halfway through. Everything will just- 

But they fucking made it, they did it, and by the way Benrey slumps back against the couch, Gordon can tell he’s relieved as well.

“Don’t go too far away from me,” Freeman says, staring at the screen.

“won’t.”

“Maybe it missed,” he says, hopelessly.

Benrey turns his head an inch towards him, just slightly. “bro.”

“They say it could.”

“who says?”

“People. The cashier down at the corner store. They say it could miss.”

“it won’t, bro.”

“It could. And if it did - if you had all the time in the world - would you drive to Miami with me?”

Gordon glances across and notices Benrey already staring at him. And maybe he’s been staring for a while. Maybe he’s been staring at him in the dark living room the whole time, and Freeman just never noticed somehow.

“nah.”

“No? No?”

“nope? all I wanna do is play uhhh playstation, man. no surprises here. you know me. if I had all the time in the world I’d still be chilling right here, couch potato benry, you know me. I just wanna play, video games with people, man.”

“I guess you do. I guess that's true. Me too, I guess.”

Their little characters run around in the shadow of the clocktower, each careful not to go too far from the other.

“what now?” Benrey asks.

“Fuck it.” Gordon decides, “How about let’s just… keep going. Keep going.”

They walk up the road and out onto the starting meadow, the spawn point of the game. Gordon’s character leads the way through this field of rolling grasses, flashing green in the sunlight. The game has this background looped audio of insects buzzing in the grass, and the same looping animations of wind and particles that come across in easily predictable, familiar patterns. They stay still for long enough that the camera pans out and rotates idly. Freeman lets the scene sit.

In the quiet, they can hear Bubby and Coomer’s TV on the roof outside, and the movie still playing.

“Where is he?” the TV says. “The hour is up!”

And then they can’t hear it anymore, because Bubby and Coomer start shooting the sky.

Is there anything he wants to do at the last moment, the eleventh hour? Any last minute goodbyes, any last minute bucket-list shit? But no, the two of them are just chilling side by side on the couch, the same as always.

And that’s when Benrey’s character ducks in close very quickly, and at the same time, he makes a little kissing noise. Freeman takes pause.

“Did you just-?”

“yeah?”

“-You know what? Fine. Do it. Kiss me if you want.”

And Benrey puts down his controller.

He looks steadily at him across the couch. His face bears no expression, he is completely serious about this, and Freeman blinks. He didn’t mean - he thought - he just - he stops thinking. Benrey watches him, dark and serene. And without his thinking about it, Gordon’s body moves like gravity, like some giant unstoppable force is drawing him forwards. He feels Benrey’s breath hot on his mouth. He feels his heart pounding. He feels - he feels-

Benrey tilts his head. Gordon leans in to meet him.

And the instant before their lips touch-

The meteor misses.