“Hey, what’s your problem, man?”
Benrey's eyes were locked on the floor, or perhaps through the floor. He didn’t seem to be looking.
Gordon grabbed him by the shoulder, and Benrey doesn’t react, or so much as look at him. His body moved limply. Gordon watched him intently, looking into Benrey’s almost lifeless eyes for any sense of acknowledgement.
“Are you dead?” he asked. A somewhat dumb question, but not unreasonable at this point.
Benrey still didn’t reply, or move, or blink. His mouth was slightly open, just enough for small breaths to pass in and out, hardly enough to make his chest rise and fall. When he blinked, it was slow and distant, like an orchestrated effort rather than instinct.
Benrey felt very far away. So far he didn’t know where he was, or who he was. He couldn’t see or hear or move without immense concentration.
It’s happened before. It’ll pass.
Gordon didn’t know, though, and something between concern and suspicion morphed onto his face.
“What’s wrong with you? Are you, like, overloaded or something? Too many input commands at once?” Was that lilt in his voice humor or concern? Was there a lilt at all?
....what did he say again? Benrey didn’t hear him.
Maybe Gordon was starting to think Benrey was actually one of the other NPCs. Maybe he was. Was he?
Gordon waited once again for a lack of response. He grabbed Benrey’s face with both of his hands and moved his head around. When nothing happened still, he squished Benrey’s cheeks. “Whoaaa, I'm Benrey, I'm a piece of shit, I have a fucking... passport complex, bwueh...”
Still, nothing. It was like playing with a doll, or voodoo doll, maybe. Gordon raised Benrey’s head so his downcast eyes were looking into Gordon’s, and for just a moment Benrey wasn’t just looking through him, but at him.
Gordon couldn’t tell, though. He dropped Benrey’s head.
“Well, whatever, I know you’re not fucking dead. I gotta catch up with the others.”
He turned to leave; and somewhere in Benrey’s empty, far away consciousness, something said ‘no’.
A hand connected to his body reached out and seized Gordon’s wrist. Gordon jumped and whipped back around, frustration already jumping to the forefront.
“Fucking– knock it off! I don’t want to play your games, man!”
The body that supposedly belonged to Benrey still did not respond, and at this Gordon’s anger melted into something akin to concern. Or maybe just melted.
Moving his body felt like piloting a fucking mecha. A voice that was maybe Benrey’s, from what felt like miles away, told him, ‘move’.
It didn’t work as well as he, or the voice far far away, had hoped. His hand slipped from Gordon’s wrist and instead re-latched onto his hand. The hollowness in Benrey’s chest thumped, and every distant voice and feeling that was stuck behind glass walls in his brain screamed to be let in.
A soft tug pulled Gordon closer.
Gordon sputtered, “What are you doing?” Gordon stood on guard, head tilted away and body tense, anticipating any sort of jumpscare or gun in his face.
Benrey wobbled, then fell forward and faceplanted into Gordon’s chest.
Gordon jumped again and instinctively caught Benrey, securing him with his other hand on Benrey’s shoulder.
“What?” he breathed.
Benrey’s mind banged against the glass walls. Benrey’s real arms lifted, slow and heavy, until they wrapped around Gordon’s back. “Hug,” he heard his real voice say, plain and simple, muffled against Gordon’s HEV suit.
Gordon tensed. “W-what, like, for real? This isn’t some sort of trick, is it?” he stumbled over his words. The idea of Benrey being genuine didn’t feel natural, nor did the idea of him needing - or wanting - comfort.
“Not clickbait,” Benrey muttered.
“Not clickbait?” Gordon repeated.
Benrey shook his ahead against Gordon’s chest, and something about the... smallness of it was enough to convince Gordon to wrap his arms around Benrey’s back and squeeze. He stared over Benrey’s shoulder, frowning.
After a moment, Gordon spoke. “You know... if you wanted a hug, you could have just asked.”
Benrey made a disapproving noise, unintelligible.
“Okay, you’re right. I would have said no,” Gordon sighed and absentmindedly rubbed Benrey’s back. “But next time.... you can.”
The glass walls in Benrey’s mind cracked.
Yeah, he’d be coming back soon.