A note mostly unrelated to this fic: With MGS4's release date almost upon us, I'll just say a quick word about my spoiler policy, for any interested: I have absolutely no intention of spoiling anyone. I know PS3s are thin on the ground (don't have one myself ), and recognise that as such a large part of the fandom won't get to play the game immediately, possibly for several months. I almost certainly will end up writing fics with MGS4 content, but rest assured they will be clearly marked. This applies to any details regarding MGS4, including concepts and information released in trailers. This fic has no MGS4 content.
(I would ask reviewers to be conscious of spoilers, especially in spoil-free fic, although I doubt many people read the reviews page. If you're concerned about spoiling me, I would ask that you say nothing about anything until the release date (I cut myself off from all MGS4 information, including trailers, some six months ago) but after that I'll be locking myself away from the internet and playing through on the weekend and so will be immune. Thank you. And, indeed, I might take this opportunity to say thank you to those who take the time to leave reviews. I really do appreciate them, and I love that the MGS community is small enough that I can now recognize familiar faces. I always look forward to reading your comments!)
Dave woke knowing something was wrong. He knew it before he opened his eyes, before his mind had catalogued all available nearby weapons, before he was even truly awake. It was a cold dusty feeling, like walking through a room full of ice crystals and feeling them land on his skin. The air was thick with the smell of coffee, and the bed was empty. Which meant that Hal was making coffee, which meant that Hal had gotten up before him. This only ever happened when he was out of commission, or Hal had not gone to bed at all. Neither of these was the case.
He rolled over and glanced at the bright red digits on the radio-clock next to the bed. 6:14. Dave wouldn't have gotten up for another fifteen minutes. The sun wouldn't be up for another two hours. The engineer shouldn't have been up for another four. Dave sighed and rolled right out of bed, slipping easily out of the warm bedding and landing solidly on the cool wooden floor. He picked up a pair of jeans on his way out of the bedroom.
Hal was, as expected, setting a pair of mugs down on their heavily stained kitchen table when Dave ghosted in, running a hand through his thick crop of hair. The engineer smiled at him vaguely as he sat down in his chair, wrapped his long fingers around the mug in front of him. Dave pulled his own chair out with an ankle and slipped into it, stared down at his drink. The dark coffee was swirling slowly, a thin trail of foam circling around towards the middle, a tiny brown-scale galaxy.
"You're up early," he noted carefully.
Hal shrugged and took a sip of his coffee. His gray eyes were lowered to stare at the table, partially hidden under dark lashes, the moon behind stormy clouds. "I couldn't sleep. And I figured, since you'd be getting up soon anyway, I might as well make some coffee."
Dave nodded, as if the engineer's statement made sense, coming as it was from a man who had by his own volition probably only seen the sunrise twice in his life, and took a deep swig from his mug, made a slight face even as he swallowed. His tongue tingled. "How much sugar did you put in this?"
"I- uh, a spoon and a half?"
"You know I only take half." It had taken the engineer two years of niggling to nudge him away from black coffee, and even then he hadn't made it very far.
"Huh? Oh, sorry, I can- I'll get some more…" Hal put down his cup, made to stand.
"No, it's fine. Don't bother." He took another deep sip to calm the engineer, watched his partner stare into his coffee, trace the rim of his mug absently with a thumb.
"Are you okay?" Dave put down his empty mug, and Hal started like a rabbit at the low thump.
"What? Yes, yeah, I'm fine. Just kind of worked up. You know, all the hacking I've been doing, and Mei Ling's been asking me to look into some stuff for her, and just yesterday Jack emailed and-"
"Hal." Dave cut his rambling off with a single word, waited for the engineer to look at him, gray eyes unusually dark in the kitchen's poor lighting. His skin seemed darker than usual as well, as if suffering from underexposure. "What is it?" he asked quietly.
Hal blinked, eyes sharpening for an instant, before he shook his head. "It's nothing. I just- I missed you." He smiled widely, eyes closed. The ice crystals hardened to pinpricks, the hair on the back of Dave's neck rising. The smile was false and pained, a mask tacked over his face to cover a deep hurt.
Dave reached out for the engineer's wrist, hand bright against the table's darker surface. "Are you sure…" he closed his fingers on empty air, where his eyes told him the engineer's wrist should have been. He stared, ignoring the low thrumming in his ears.
Dave looked up at the engineer and the world swayed, darkening shades bleeding into each other, oily shadows consuming one another hungrily.
"Dave, are you okay?"
He watched Hal stand, tried to do the same and caught his ankle on the chair; he had forgotten to unwrap it. Hal's face blurred and the table tipped abruptly, and then he was staring up at the engineer, hands suddenly resting on rough linoleum. Dave could see Hal's mouth moving, but nothing was getting through the cotton wool in his ears. He reached for Hal's face, and found only darkness.