Broken, a Metal Gear Solid fic by blinkblink

Disclaimer: No owning of anything.

It happened one night, when they were sitting on the couch together, watching some movie. Hal didn't remember afterwards which movie it was, or who had been in it, or really anything about it at all other than that there had been plenty of action and violence, which tended to bore him. So, he hadn't really been paying much attention to anything going on around him, hadn't noticed Dave's unusual stillness or sideways glances, until Dave leant over suddenly, raised a hand to press against Hal's far cheek, turned him to face the soldier.

He had time to catch a flash of Dave's eyes, unusually warm and open, before the other man closed them, pressed his mouth against Hal's, shifting to follow when Hal partially fell away out of surprise, hand dropping to the engineer's shoulder.

Hal's heart rate skyrocketed, gut wrenching as he fought not to move, eyes wide at first with shock, than narrowed with pain. He closed them the instant before Dave pulled away, only to open them again to be met with the sight of his partner watching him closely, expression thoughtful and, worse, hopeful. "Hal," he said quietly, as carefully as he would defuse a claymore, "I think I'm in love with you."

"I," stuttered Hal, words stuck in his throat. You're my best friend, but, and I love you more than anyone else, but flooded through his mind. Every sentence he could think of ended in the word "but." Looking for help, he dropped his eyes, glanced at the television, currently playing a commercial, the wall, the table covered in magazines and empty beer cans, Dave's hand on his shoulder.

The moonlight was streaming in through their living room's small window, lighting up Dave's hand as though with a spotlight. Even now, only four years after he had met the man who had been in his early thirties then, the skin there was already loosening, veins becoming more evident. Hal's other thoughts vanished suddenly, and in the silence that remained one thought echoed through his mind: he has so little time left.

He turned back to Dave, who was still watching him, hope beginning to fade. "Dave," he said softly, putting as much love and care into the word as he could, hoping it would be enough. It seemed to be. Dave smiled, the smile of a man, not a soldier, and drew Hal into another kiss, this one deeper, longer. As he slipped his hands up under Hal's shirt, warm against the engineer's cool skin, Hal found himself hoping that for once in his life, he had made the right choice in a matter of feelings.

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As a one-sided romance went, it wasn't bad. Hal found it awkward and uncomfortable a lot of the time, as a straight man sleeping with his male best friend couldn't possibly have avoided. But given a choice between Dave and his stepmother, he would rather have slept with Dave every night for eternity than feel her nails scratching over his skin again. And it wasn't as though Dave was possessive, outside the bedroom. If they weren't alone, the only sign he might ever give of his feelings for the engineer was a slight warmth in his eyes, and even then it was easy to blink and miss it. When they were alone, Dave tended not to be touchy anyway, although Hal soon got used to Dave following him around with his eyes.

Really, the hardest part was when they lay in bed together after sex, both of them hot and tired, Dave's strong arms wrapped around the engineer's thin frame, face resting in the curve of Hal's neck. Sometimes then- rarely- he would whisper, "I love you," in a quiet firm tone, as though he had given the matter an intense amount of thought and come to this conclusion. Then, gut wrenching, Hal pulled together all his feelings and screwed and twisted them until he could answer with something like honesty in his voice, "I love you too." The effort left him feeling exhausted and somehow torn. He wondered, on nights like those, whether he even knew how to love anymore.

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Ultimately, Hal had been right, though. Dave didn't have much time. In the first two years after Dave's confession, the soldier seemed to age ten years. The next three years, he aged almost ten for each year alone, so that by the time eight years had passed since Hal met him, four since that night on the couch, Dave seemed to have gone from mid thirties to late seventies. By the last year, Dave had lost almost any interest in physical contact at all, withdrew into himself most of the time. It was only in the nights following his worst days, the days he realised he had so little left- health, strength, time- that he would roll over in the dark and find the one thing he still did have, would pull Hal into a tight, silent hug. And Hal, twisting and screwing until it hurt, would murmur quietly in the dark "I love you," tears in his eyes but not his voice. When Dave held him even more tightly afterwards, somehow it only hurt more.

Even in his condition, possibly because of his condition, Dave insisted on running the final mission to the Middle East, into the middle of a warzone. Hal, who couldn't change his mind, agreed eventually on the condition he would go along as well, which Dave was eventually forced to accept.

And so Otacon found himself sitting in the small hotel room they had rented for next to nothing, watching the little blue dot which represented Snake's location on his laptop. Somehow, against all odds, the man had succeeded. But then again, he was the legendary soldier Solid Snake. He never should have doubted.

Otacon was beginning to pack up his peripherals when someone dialed directly into his codec, loud ringing startling him into dropping his back-up mouse. He waited for the caller to speak, eyes narrowing. When no greeting was forthcoming, he said, "hello?" voiced tinged with suspicion.

"Hal?" said Dave's voice, quiet and gruff. It was the first time he had ever broken protocol on a mission.

"Snake? What is it? Snake?"

There was no answer. Swearing, Hal grabbed the M9 Dave had left for him off the table, glanced at the map on his laptop, already mostly memorized, and dashed out of the room.

He ran through the war torn streets, gun partially hidden under his jacket, passing burned out buildings and corpses, stumbling over rubble and abandoned weapons. The air smelled of exhaust and smoke, full of grit and ashes. He forced himself to focus, continue on. There would be time later to mourn the atrocities of war.

He arrived at the building Dave was in gasping for breath, a stitch stabbing through his side like a dagger. Still he managed to half run up two flights of stairs, breaking out into the third floor with a clatter. He stumbled along to the room Dave had been in, gun raised in shaking hands. He rounded the corner into the room and, slowly, lowered his M9.

Dave was sitting against the far wall smoking a cigarette. He had pulled off the SnakeEye, and watched Hal enter with both eyes, although he didn't move his head. The corner of his lip lifted in what might have been a smile. Hal took a step forward. "Snake?"

Dave gave a gruff cough. "Hal," he answered, quietly. The cigarette fell from his lips into his lap, and he didn't bother to brush it away. Hal started forwards at that, half running across the room to kneel beside his partner. He dropped the gun and with his other hand grabbed the still smoking cigarette, stubbed it out on the floor.

"Snake?" asked Hal, voice wavering, still unable to break from the mission protocol Snake himself had drilled into him years ago. "I'll call Naomi. She can be here right away," Hal dug through his pocket, pulled out his cell phone. The weight of Dave's hand on his wrist, spotted and wasted, stopped him. Hal lowered his phone slowly, clicking the lid shut. "Snake, is there any medicine left?" he asked instead.

Dave was still watching him, although it was obviously an effort. It was taking him longer to lift his lids again after each blink. Slowly, he shook his head.

"God, Snake, don't do this to me." Hands shaking, Hal scrambled through his pockets, looking for what he knew wasn't there. He had given his last vial of Naomi's drug to Snake with the Mark II almost a day ago. "I don't have any. Oh God. I'll- there has to be some in the hotel. I'll run back, it won't take me long. Just, just wait here, I'll be right back." He rose to go, but Dave's hand was still on his wrist. It tightened slightly, and Dave shook his head again.

"Hal," he repeated, voice thick with emotion. Slow, agonizingly slow, he raised a trembling hand to press against Hal's face, clumsily knocked his glasses off; they clattered onto to the floor. Hal slid back to his knees, throat constricting.

"Dave," he managed to croak out. Dave smiled, slightly, eyes already losing focus. Hal leant in, pulled the other man into a tight hug, Dave's hand sliding down to rest on his shoulder. Hal heard the other man give a gasping sigh, then fall silent. "Dave? Dave? Dave? You have to wake up!" He gave him a soft shake, head resting against Dave's shoulder; he wasn't strong enough to lift it, knowing what he would see. "Dave, please. Dave?" He drew in breath in a great heaving gasp. In the bright sunlight, Dave's still hand looked smooth, young. Sitting there, body of his best friend and lover held tightly in his arms, Hal felt as though his chest burning. He gave a quiet, broken gasp as he realised what his heart was telling him, tears finally beginning to flow. He should have known it would end like this from the beginning.

"Dave?" he said, in a quiet shaking voice, "I think I'm in love with you."