About a month ago, Black Mesa had been erased from existence. Bubby and Coomer now worked as an independent scientific research team, who may have committed the occasional crime to supplement their grant funding. Tommy lived "with" his dad (to say G-Man lives anywhere seems wrong) and worked at a Dunkin' full-time. Gordon was handed the keys to a new, 2-bedroom apartment and given the task of keeping an eye on Benrey.
Perhaps, under different circumstances, Benrey wouldn't have been a factor in this. Gordon didn't even want to think of how the fight would've gone if Tommy hadn't spoken up. As absurd as it was, stopping the giant alien god by uninviting him to your birthday party almost made sense after all they had been through. G-Man agreed that they definitely shouldn't be left to their own devices, so Gordon somehow got chosen as their designated baby-sitter.
Okay, maybe it wasn't that bad. Gordon got a security job (ironically enough) at a food plant nearby, so he was either working or asleep most of the time. He rarely saw his roommate- not that he was complaining. The few times he did speak up were when something was wrong - like the fridge was almost empty - or if Benrey had said something nonsensical enough to provoke him. He told himself on a near-daily basis that he wasn't afraid anymore. He wasn't afraid of them, really! They just had an unnerving presence, and who wouldn't jump if someone randomly teleported through a wall next to them? Other than still wearing that godforsaken helmet, they seemed to have put their Black Mesa days behind them. It took about two weeks for them to stop wearing the bulletproof vest, and one more for them to wear anything other than their old uniform. It was becoming normal to see them silently playing some game in the living room when he got home from a late shift. They didn't speak, so neither did Gordon. It was a quick, painless process that saved them both the frustration of their strained communication.
It was a pretty normal night, Gordon having just walked in at about 3 am and Benrey being sprawled on the couch with his PSP in hand. His occupancy had become a sort of white noise, so Gordon didn't even register when he spoke up. He glanced over, but his roommate hadn't even looked up from his console, so he shrugged it off until he tried again.
"hey, hey feetman? you hear me? need to clean your ears or somethin?"
"Yes, I can hear you. I'm fine." Of all the times, why now? Why when he's tired and just got back and wants nothing more than to sleep? He just focused on washing the containers from his lunch to avoid getting worked up.
"wow, kinda rude to not ask me how I am." He must've turned off the PSP, cause he stuffed it in his pocket and meandered over to the bar counter in front of the sink. They just leaned there, watching their roommate.
"Ok, how are you?"
"I'm just, you know how, how it is..."
"Cool, I'm gonna-" Gordon turned off the sink, and Benrey was gone. Fuck it, who cares, at least you can sleep now . He turned to leave, only to be less than a foot away from the alien, who appeared at the entrance to the kitchen area. He jumped back out of instinct, almost tripping but catching himself on a counter. "What... the fuck!"
"oh shit whats wrong"
"You- you just fucking teleported! Don't do that!"
There was a beat of silence as they just hovered over him. "Hey dude, wanna play something?"
"Huh? You didn't even-"
"I got- minecraft-"
"On the PSP?"
"No, dummy , it's on the computer."
"Yeah, yeah, of course it is. Listen man, I'm really tired-"
"they added goats."
"And, uh," Benrey smacked his lips loudly, trying to remember something, "birds." His eyes were almost glowing from under his helmet's shadow. God, why the hell did he even still wear that?
"Pretty cool- but I'm, like, really -"
"need a nap? lil baby feetman need a nap? huh?"
Deep breath, count to five, just relax . "If I play Minecraft with you, can I go to sleep?"
Gordon sighed, and got up. "So, are you going to set up a server or something?"
An hour later, Gordon was most of the way through building a basic-looking house on his roommate's server. It wasn't too bad, he got to look at all the cool updates he had missed and Benrey was being pretty nice about explaining stuff. Other than a few weird comments, things were chill. SUre, he was still tired, but at least now he knew he would be able to sleep uninterrupted later.
"open the door."
"That's not how- wait you mean in the game? Can't you just open it yourself?"
"I, I wanted to be polite."
"Oh, well, sure. Just a sec." Gordon ran downstairs and clicked open the door. Benrey slowly crouch-walked in, holding some item he didn't recognize. "Did you just want to see the house? I can give you a tour, if you want."
"oh sure, that sounds, pretty- pretty epic."
They went through the house together. It wasn't all that special, but at least it wasn't bad. Finally, they got to the bedroom.
"Do I need more than one?"
"can... can I-" They pushed away from their desk, glancing back at Gordon on the floor beside them before staring at their fiddling hands.
"C'mon, just say it."
"can I put my minecraft bed next to yours?"
He was speechless. Gordon has faced possible death caused by this person - if you can even call him that - and this was the thing that made him nervous. Were they in fucking middle school? Is this even fucking happening? "You... want to..." He couldn't even finish the sentence without breaking into a fit of tired giggles.
"dude, don't- don't laugh. i'm trying to- to be all nice and sensitive, and you, you're laughing at me."
Catching his breath, Gordon tried to be a little nicer. "So, you want to sleep next to me? In Minecraft?"
"you don't have to say it like that."
"Say it like what?"
They stared back at their screen for a full second, before turning back to their roommate. "what?"
"God, why do I even bother? Sure, you can put your Minecraft bed next to mine."
"wow, man, that's, that's kinda gay."
That was it. "Ok, I'm going to sleep." He started shutting his laptop, but Benrey scrambled onto the floor with him so quickly he didn't get a chance to stand.
"nooo, don't go! we- we were just getting to the good part!"
"What 'good part'?"
They adjusted so they were on their stomach, head resting on the palms of their hands and elbows on the floor. They looked like some love-sick teenage girl, telling her best friend about the guy she's spoken to once and plans to marry. "oh, you know..." Gordon swore that, if there was a vocal equivalent to ending a text with <3, then Benrey just did it.
"Listen, man, I know you've been coming on to me and all, even in Black Mesa, but can you just tell me what you're trying to do? Like, do you actually want to go out with me or something, or are you just doing this to fuck with my head?"
"Like dating? Oh god please tell me you know what a date is, I really don't feel like explaining it right now."
"pfft, course I- course I know about dates. it's where you eat? right?" He literally couldn't be more obviously bluffing. "eat some, uh, mac and cheeeese."
"So, you do actually have a thing for me?"
"yeah, uh, big- big thing. massive big love thing."
A year ago, if someone told Gordon everything he had just gone through, and asked him if he would go out with the eldritch horror being that drained his sanity and nearly killed him multiple times, he'd probably say no. But now? What was there to even lose? Benrey was frustrating and obnoxious and childish, but he was also facinating. Nothing about them made sense, and this might be the perfect opportunity to learn more about them. Plus, it's not like anyone else was vying for his affection at the moment, so he isn't missing out on anything.
"Fuck it, sure. When do you want to go out?"
"woah woah, for serious? you wanna , like, do things with me?" He seemed genuinely shocked at that, like he was expecting to be shut down.
"top ten epic gamer moments!? okay so like what now."
"Wh- I just asked, when do you actually want to go out? I'm off on Sunday, so maybe that night? It's not like you're ever busy."
"yeah, yeah sounds good."
Over the course of another ten minutes, they got the plan down. The two would meet at 5 on Sunday night at some casual-but-good American grill (Gordon's suggestion). If it went too bad, he could always just call it off. What could really go wrong?
Ok, maybe Gordon was a little excited about this. It couldn't be that bad, right? He didn't really see Benrey after Black Mesa past coming home from late shifts, but that didn't really count. He was a little early, so he sat waiting in his car, killing time on some clicker app. The text tone almost startled him, but in hindsight, it was one of the better ways for Benrey to get a hold of him.
hey,, car? outside please? come out? <<<3333
Mhm. Well, not uncharacteristic, so whatever. He got out as requested, immediately faced with his date. Helmet was still on, of course. Their black jeans and sneakers weren't too odd, but his shirt... oh god. Gordon didn't even know where to start processing it. At first, in the low evening light, he thought it was some sort of aquarium scene poorly printed on a button-up. Not great, but he could overlook it. A step closer hit him with a wave of horrified recognition: that was Goku. That was a bunch of Gokus. What the fuck.
"Hey Benrey, what's with the shirt?"
"huh." He glanced down to his own clothes, then back up to Gordon. "it's got buttons." It was almost impressive how easily they could leave him speechless. They just opened their mouth, and he had the painstaking job of salvaging something from the word vomit. "don't like buttons?"
"No, it's not that, just... forget about it. Let's just go in."
So they did. The restaurant wasn't busy, so they were seated pretty quickly. The waitress, probably some high-schooler doing this part-time, complemented his roommate's shirt. Drinks came fast (water for Gordon, Mountain Dew for Benrey), and the food was ordered not to long after (burger and ribs respectively).There wasn't much conversation. Was he nervous? Did he just not have anything to say? Sure, they weren't exactly talkative, but for a date this was a bit underwhelming.
"So, you like ribs?"
"they're nice and. uh. meaty."
"Cool." That went absolutely nowhere. "What have you been playing recently?" They were always carrying that PSP around, they had to be into something.
"Farm Frenzy Pizza Party™."
"you grow stuff. to make pizza."
"Uh-huh. Sounds... fun?"
"yeh I got, like, ten pandas."
"You make pizza out of pandas? "
"no, they just- just keep trying to eat my chickens."
"Well maybe you shouldn't farm near pandas!"
"I dont! they get airdropped into my-"
" Airdropped? Who's dropping pandas into your fucking farm! "
"dunno, but they keep doing it, so just gotta keep trapping 'em."
The thrilling banter was interrupted by the food's arrival. Gordon thanked the waitress as she walked off. It looked good, at least. He turned back to Benrey to continue the conversation, but was too dumbfounded at what he saw to speak. They held about three ribs in one hand, shoving them - bone and all - into their mouth. They didn't chew. They just swallowed it whole, before burping with perfect comedic timing.
"How... did you..."
"is that not what you're supposed to do?" His eyes were wide and genuine. They still had that glow, but it seemed a bit softer now.
"You just eat the meat. Humans can't eat bones like that. Don't you know that?"
They just stared at him, then at their food, then him again, and then the food. Gordon just shrugged it off and tried to start eating. Occasionally, he made comments mainly for the purpose that anyone who saw them wouldn't be concerned. It wasn't meant to be mean, just that they might want to wipe the sauce off their hands before they grabbed their cup or to not put the grape jelly left from the breakfast rush on his meat. Whether it was his face or his tone, something seemed to make them nervous. eventually, they just stopped eating entirely. Gordon was about finished, so he didn't think too much of it.
"Full? I am too. If you want, we can leave, we just have to get the check first."
"You do know we have to pay, right? Actually, you know what, don't worry about it, I'll pay." He was a bit agitated, but it wasn't deep. After all, he had sort of been expecting this. Benrey mumbled something that he couldn't quite catch.
"What was that?"
" 'm sorry."
He didn't get an answer, because his date just stood up and walked out. He cursed himself and left a fifty on the table before running out after him.
"Dude, wait- wait! What's wrong?"
"you don't have to be such a- such a little liar. gordon liarman."
"What on earth are you even talking about?"
Benrey wasn't exactly expressive, but anger radiated out from him. "you hate me! you don't have to lie, just say it! say you don't want to be here!"
"Why would I hate you?" Admittedly, he could think of a few reasons. More than a few, maybe. A lot. The more he thought about it, the reasons just kept piling up. He did, in a way, hate the man. But it wasn't really hate. It's more the way someone might hate their cat: sure, it can be annoying, but you aren't going to just give it away.
"I don't know! I keep trying, to be good. like you."
"you're so, like, good. nice. you know things! I'm just stupid and dumb and stupid. can't learn. can't do anything right. cringe."
As nice as the compliments were, they seemed a bit sudden. He still hadn't forgotten about the constant insults and berating from the days of the Resonance Cascade. Saying that he was mean. To jump off cliffs. That the whole thing was his fault. The anger and exhaustion and desperation boiled in him as he stared at the former security guard. At Benrey . And then they reached out.
Sometime later, Tommy pulled up. He rushed over to his friend, who hadn't moved the whole time. Still lightheaded, he let Tommy help him into the passenger side seat. Soon enough, they were driving. Street lights flashed by, and Gordon felt like he was dying. He hadn't meant it. He hadn't meant it.
"Benrey called me. He said you- that you were really upset. He said he didn't know what to do."
"I'm sure he did." It came out more bitter-sounding then he wanted it to.
He didn't mean to jump, honestly. When he saw that hand reaching towards him, those yellow eyes, that fucking helmet , the hatred melted away and all he felt was fear. Before he even knew what happened, Gordon was on the ground, hyperventilating, unaware of his surroundings. Out of instinct, he had pointed his arm at the alien and squeezed. And Benrey just stared back. He looked hurt. Gordon felt tears welling up. His hand fell back to his side. They walked away.
"Maybe you should be a little nicer to him."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I know that we all went through some stuff but, I think he's trying his best. He likes you a lot."
"Well, maybe he shouldn't have waited so long to be nice."
Tommy's car must have been pretty well-kept, because it was almost silent. Gordon wasn't really mad anymore. He kept telling himself that. He told himself he wasn't scared of Benrey anymore on a near-daily basis.
"It's hard, to be nice. They aren't like us. They don't really- they don't get people."
"Hold on a second, aren't you not human either?"
"Yeah, but I grew up here. I know what people are like. He came from a whole 'nother planet to take over, and he didn't. He's trying to be better at- at-"
"Being a person?"
The car pulled up to the apartment, and he eventually found himself at the top of the stairs. Keys clicked. The door opened.
Benrey wasn't in the living room. Nor was he in the kitchen, bathroom, or either bedroom. Too tired to worry about them, he just showered and went to bed. It was early, but he was beat. This was going to be a tomorrow problem.