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The cleanup and the tending is done, and now that there are no obstacles hindering their enjoyment of the afterglow, the satisfaction of settling down into the warm bed radiates through them along with the high. Alyx plucks Gordon’s t-shirt from the ground at the edge of the bed and slides it over her torso—she always complains of being too cold sleeping without one, and, well, it’s a good excuse to wear something of his. He can’t exactly complain when the cotton highlights her frame so well in the gentle light.

He lies on his back and invites her to come close, humming serenely as he’s able to envelop her in his arms. She nestles under the covers and into his chest without a shred of apprehension.

“That was really good,” she remarks, her thumb stroking back and forth along his chest.

“Mm-hmm,” he replies. The vibrations from his voice reverberate in her ears, and she closes her eyes with a calm smile. To be close to him, to share contact and love—it’s medicine for her soul.

A sigh escapes her lungs, a blissful note riding on the breath. “I love you.”

He squeezes her back for a moment before taking to tracing circles with the most delicate touch of his fingertips. “I love you, too,” he echoes. “I missed you.”

She immediately knows what Gordon’s referring to: this afternoon she had returned to White Forest from a mission to a previously Resistance-inhabited town which had been discovered and shelled by the Combine some time ago. The hope, and the responsibility bestowed upon her and her team, was that they would be able to reclaim it as a settlement for soon-to-be families. The trip had only been a few days long, but he had worn his best puppy dog eyes the moment he saw her party return to the gates, and she couldn’t deny the fact that she’d missed him just as much.

Still, though, she never passes up an opportunity to tease him.

“It was only three days, Gordon.”

“I know that…” he defends, and he sounds almost sad. “But I still did. And the bed was cold without you.”

“Awww, poor baby,” she mocks as she lifts her head, holding herself up on her elbow.

He laughs and turns his face away. “Alyx…”

“I’m just teasing, hon.” She gently guides him back to look at her, holding his jaw with such delicateness. “I missed you really bad, too.”

His hands travel up her back to her shoulders, holding her chest tight to his as he meets her lips for a kiss, slow, sweet. His eyelashes flutter when he pulls away to look at her in her beauty. She brushes lines into his auburn hair with her fingernails, spawning an involuntary deep breath, in and out, completely relaxing under her touch. He’s putty in her hands, always.

Her gaze floats around his face. She begins at his eyes, somehow still a brilliant green in the glow of the bedside lamp, more vibrant than she’s ever seen on another person. They ooze affection and sleepiness, comfort and pleasure. Sometimes the sheer volume of love he awards her in every look makes her feel like gravity is failing around her.

Her eyes move down to his freckles, framing his curved nose and the soft cheeks of a man unaffected by the harsh conditions of their society. He’s got gobs of them, trailing all along his skin, constellations she would trace out with her fingers for hours if he’d let her. Next, his thin but plush lips, plenty pink and moistened from their evening together. With a gentle blink and a gentler smile, she returns to meet his eyes.

“You’re so beautiful,” he whispers, emphasizing each word as if they’re the most important ones he’s ever spoken. It’s his turn to card a hand through her hair. “What did I ever do to deserve you?”

Her grin widens, eyes crinkling. There’s really nothing that she can say to that, for she could list a thousand of the ways he’s earned her love. Instead, she opts to slide onto her side and rest her head against the pillow, which prompts him to roll to face her. She snakes her arm under the pillow to hold it, but her free hand doesn’t deviate from his body. She traces devotion into his skin with the lightest grazes of her nails, up and down his arm, swirling along his back, as he pulls at her waist to press her to him. A leg loops over to hook to his, intertwining them.

They lay together inches apart for what could be five minutes or possibly eternity, eyes closed, their sleepy breathing the only noise filling the little room. Her fingernails continue to draw circles into his back, slowly, entrancingly. She lures him further into her embrace with every delicate stroke.

“Y’know what I think about sometimes?” she asks, breaking the silence, eyes still closed.

“Hmm?” Gordon hums in curiosity.

“There are a lot of people who know you, or at least think they know you, because of the Resistance.” Her eyes flutter barely open to gaze at his face. “But I’m the only one who gets to know how good the One Free Man is in bed.”

His laughter is light and warm as he opens his own eyes, amused and perhaps a bit scandalized by her observation. The small distance between their lips closes once again—but not before his syrupy voice can respond, “The Alyx Vance isn’t so bad, herself.”

The hand on his shoulder flattens to feel his heat, to rub the freckled, scarred skin which belongs only to her to be caressed and kissed. Their mouths meet and mingle warmly. She sighs against him and immediately feels his lips spread into a smile; he’s clearly proud of how good he is at making her melt into his arms.

“You’re so good to me…” she murmurs with her nose still touching his.

His smile softens into something dreamlike. “You deserve everything I can give you.”

Damn is he an expert at telling her exactly what she wants to hear. “That was pretty smooth.”

“I have my moments.”

Her eyes close again, and when she nestles further into her pillow, she feels his forehead rest against hers as he pushes his hand up the middle of the back to hold her closer.

“I love you so much,” she says for the second time in the past few minutes. Her voice, though quiet, drips with fondness. On the inside she feels like a monsoon.

“I love you, Alyx.”

The sound of her name from his mouth radiates through her like sunshine. The hand which rests under her head comes out to again touch his soft hair; she threads it between her fingers and hears his breath hitch a little.

He’s smitten with her. She can’t say she differs.