Dry your eyes mate
With any other friend, it would be embarrassing, watching them cry. With him, it's just painful. Physically painful. Painful like stubbing your toe when you see the tears in his eyes; and painful like the nagging ache in your gums when the dentist's injection wears off, as you watch him cry.
Your arm went round his shoulder, instinctively; and again you only reacted like that because it was him. Other friends you'd be hesitating, trying to balance the comfort you might offer now against the embarrassment later. Never quite sure how it would be taken. But with him it's different, and your arm is just there; and it's fine (only it's not fine, it's not fucking fine at all, and you wish you could make it all alright again, but you can't and you feel so fucking useless)
He's always just been there. Your best mate since you were seven and he was eight. Years of after-school sessions pounding computer games into submission. The anticipation of loading up a new game; the dejection and frustration of being stuck in the middle; the sense of achievement when you finally completed it.
And it still feels the same now you're grown up. When you come back from the pub, on goes the Playstation. You know each others' moves inside out by now, but that just makes it more fun. When you pass to him, and he scores the winning goal; or you karate kick your way through a roomful of ninjas together; or blast the heads off fifteen zombies in perfect co-ordination. You'll still jump up from the sofa screaming in triumph when you conquer the end of level boss only now, instead of your mum, it's your flatmate complaining about the noise, and can't you do something useful instead of wasting all your time on that rubbish.
But the real world doesn't work like a computer game. When people are shot, they don't lose a few health points and otherwise carry on as normal. They bleed, and they hurt, and then they go pale, and they die (and you're not going to think about that, you're not, you can't). The adrenaline goes sour in your system and leaves you feeling jumpy and hollow and gives you the runs. And when one of you makes a mistake, you can't just go back to the last saved game.
You know you're stalling for time, thinking It can't end like this, surely it can't end like this but the bit of your brain that's focused on survival, the hard brutal part of your brain you never knew was in there until yesterday, knows that it must. And now you're crying too.
He looks up. "Dry your eyes, mate," he says. He even manages a half-smile.
You try to smile back, but the muscles in your cheeks won't co-operate. A moment passes, and then you hug him tightly and try not to think about what's happened, or what's going to happen.
And then you leave.