It’s warm , Gordon thinks.
He’s laying down in Barney’s bed, basking in the morning light breaking through the flimsy curtains. Gordon’s a little jealous that Barney's dormitories are above ground, but with how often Barney invites him to stay over, Gordon’s willing to overlook it. There’s faint clattering coming from the direction and Gordon makes a pleased note that Barney must’ve gotten up before him for once. Judging by the sound of Barney softly humming along with the radio, which is only interrupted by the occasional swear word and the smell of burnt toast, Gordon can only guess that Barney’s trying to make him a surprise breakfast. The thought makes Gordon grin and bury his face into the pillow.
Over the past couple years, they’ve grown impossibly close. Gordon’s never had someone like Barney in his life before. Sure, he’s had a couple people try to get close, but they’ve always ended it before it got too serious. Not Barney though.
Gordon rolls over and hears the gentle clinking of his necklace, causing his smile to widen. He buries his face into the pillow even more as he remembers when Barney gave it to him.
They were having a movie marathon again, except this time Barney decides that they needed a break from the usual alien theme and has put on increasingly cheesy rom-coms. Barney’s still running his never-ending commentary, including the outrageous arm-flailing that will knock the popcorn bowl over unless it’s safely held in Gordon’s lap. To be honest, Gordon never pays much attention to the movies. He’s way too busy watching Barney critique the special effects of aliens bursting through people’s chest or, apparently, the development speed of the relationship of the couples in rom-coms.
At some point, Gordon can remember being curled over the popcorn bowl trying to breathe through his wheezing as he desperately grabbed Barney’s arm so he doesn’t fall over completely, popcorn bowl and all. Gordon can hear Barney pause his rant about how there’s no way that she’d dump all of her hard work just to go after him, I mean COME ON, she had a promotion lined up in a job where it’s nearly impossible for a girl of her standing and he’s just a smarmy man with-with- Are you even listening, Gordon? Listen, she’s much better without him there, I don’t get why- but Gordon’s trying too hard to breathe to notice. Slowly, his breathing slows and he can sit back up correctly without risking the popcorn. His face feels warm from all the laughing and he can feel the beginnings of tears in the corners of his ears, but he turns to Barney and pats his arm as a thanks for being a stabilizer. Then he notices Barney’s face.
He’s bright red, scarlet all the way down to his neck, but he’s looking at Gordon like he hung the moon and stars and- wow, Gordon’s breathless and red for a whole other reason. He just now realizes how close they are- how close they always are- and how it just, how it just feels right .
It’s not like it’s the first time that he and Barney have ended up having prolonged eye-contact, but it is the first time that Barney doesn’t go for a kiss, and he instead stands up and says,
“Wait here, I’ve- I got something I wanna give you.” He does lean back in to give Gordon a quick peck before he’s off to his bedroom. It’s far from the most they’ve done with each other, but Gordon still finds himself tracing his lips with his free hand. He can hear Barney rustling through the bedroom. Occasionally , there’s a soft bang coming from his closing a drawer a little bit too hard, but he comes out of the bedroom sooner than later, holding something in his hand.
“Found it!” Barney nearly shouts with a wild grin on his face, and Gordon can’t help but return it with a grin of his own. Barney then makes a half-stumble-half-jog back to the couch before falling into his spot across from Gordon on the couch. “Hi,” Barney says breathlessly.
“Hi,” Gordon signs back, his smile and blush still covering his face. Barney makes a short bark of laughter before cutting himself off and bringing his hand holding the object from the bedroom in between them.
“I got this for- well, I mean, I didn’t get it for you, it’s something that I’ve had for a while now, but I want you to have it because, well, Gordon. I, uh, I like ya. A lot.” And it hits Gordon what’s happening right now and he can’t believe his ears. Holy shit. He almost wants to clean his ears, but he doesn’t think that action would be appreciated at the moment. He can feel his smile slip into something more resembling awe, but Barney just plows on, either not realizing Gordon has caught on or just determined to get through his short speech. “I know now’s not the right time for this, especially with your big test coming up soon- a couple months now, right?” Gordon goes to nod, but Barney’s not even looking at Gordon anymore. His eyes are wandering all around the messy living room space, from the TV stand that has piles of movies scattered all over it to the piles of unfolded clothes shoved into the corners. Barney just keeps talking.
“I just- I found this the other day in my closet and I thought of you and how it matches your eyes and then I just- I got hit with the fact that I’ve had this thing for years before I’d even met you, yet you’re the first thing I thought of and- It’s just, I realized how much you mean to me, Gordon, and I wanted you to know too, so I thought that maybe I should give this to you? But you absolutely don’t have to accept it, we can just stay as we are now if you-” Gordon quickly lunges at Barney and he only has a brief second to adjust to another body being pressed against him before his face is smashed into Gordon’s. It’s not the best kiss they’ve shared, but it certainly makes up for it in enthusiasm. After several beats, they break apart to breathe and Gordon is staring intensely at Barney with an ecstatic look on his face. Once he knows Barney’s focusing on him, he slowly raises his hands from where they’re resting on Barney’s chest.
“Barney Calhoun,” he signs and maybe the full name was a little too much, but he absolutely wants Barney to pay attention to what he’s about to say. “Barney Calhoun, I’m hopelessly in love with you,” and Gordon watches as Barney’s face shifts from absolutely focusing on his hands to comprehension to absolute wonder and joy. Barney laughs and Gordon can feel it shake his whole body before Barney’s grabbing his face and peppering it in soft kisses.
“I love you, too,” he says in between kisses, “You’re so smart and amazing and I love you so much I feel like making myself look like a fool for you.” And Gordon can feel the blush that never completely faded come back full force and he’s sure that if Barney would care to look, he could see it disappearing under his shirt. Gordon lets Barney pepper him with kisses a little longer before he softly paps his face. Once he has Barney’s attention (Although, he’s still sneaking little kisses on his hand), he points to the little box that Barney had brought out of his room that started this whole ordeal.
“Oh yea!” Barney says excitedly before he sits up and hands it over to Gordon. “My family had this weird tradition of making a really fancy necklace when we’re born and on our eighteenth birthday, giving it to us. Molly got hers a year before mine and hers was an amethyst crystal on what I’m guessing is pure silver chain. Our family went really overboard on somethings.” Gordon’s already pulling up the image of Barney’s Grandmother and- yep, that’s definitely something he could see her doing. “Anyway, I never wear mine because I worry about it breaking because of my job, so I thought it’d see more use with you.” Now Gordon feels like crying, but he holds it back and instead opens the jewelry box.
It’s gorgeous. A bright green emerald center stone surrounded by a delicate gold pendant. The chain also holds the same brilliant gold hue, with the clasp being a simple, but sturdy looking one. It’s not large by any means, but it’s wonderful and- oh, now Gordon’s actually crying now. He can hear Barney’s sharp intake of air, but before he can say anything, Gordon flings himself at Barney for a hug, being careful not to knock the necklace into anything. I love it, Gordon mouths into the side of Barney’s neck and he stays put just long enough to feel Barney relax before he sits back and hurriedly asks Barney to put it on him. Barney obliges, and for the next few days, Gordon is hyper-aware of the weight of the small pendant against his skin, hidden from prying eyes under his shirt. He never leaves home without it.
As Gordon slowly drifts back into the present, he feels the bed dip and he can hear Barney chuckle. He grins, but hides it in the pillow beneath him.
“Gordon,” Barney softly calls out, and Gordon can feel his warm hand come up and rub at his shoulder. “Gordon, just because neither of us have work today, that doesn’t mean you can stay in bed all day.” Gordon turns and peaks out to look at Barney. He’s wearing his cute alien boxers that Gordon had bought him last month and a thin white button-up that he hasn’t bothered to button. Gordon can hardly believe they’re schedules finally aligned for them to have the same day off like this. Normally, they can only get away with having a couple hours together, but it’s nice to have a whole day. It’s probably going to be the last one until after the test they have scheduled for next week. Gordon’s been working overtime, and Barney’s schedule has always been a bit of a mess.
Barney smiles down at him from where he’s sitting at his side and brushes the back of his hand down Gordon’s face. Gordon leans into it, earning another chuckle from Barney.
“Hey there, Sleeping Beauty, I was startin’ to think you’d never wake up, what with the way you were drooling.” Gordon sits up then, if only to shove at Barney for making that comment. Barney laughs, the sound feeling like chimes in Gordon’s soul, before he moves off the bed to walk to the door. He pauses and looks back, winking. “I made some of my famous Fridge Omelets.Come join me when you’re ready.” And then he’s gone.
Gordon yawns and stretches up, feeling his body ache in unusual ways.
Wait, his body’s aching? Oh, it’s probably just leftover from his HEV training. He’s been trying to remember to stretch all parts of himself after to try to minimize the amount of pain the next day, but he must’ve missed some parts yesterday. Feeling like he accurately solved that mystery, he reaches for his glasses.
Huh, he must’ve fallen recently. The right one has a long crack running across the left one and there’s some smudges of.... Something all across them. He’ll have to send in for new ones. Gordon places them on his face and goes to stand up before he feels a flash of hot white pain flare from his side, causing him to fall back onto the bed, clutching his side. What the fuck.
He must’ve made a noise when he fell back onto his bed because suddenly, Barney is there, sitting next to him and rubbing his back.
“Darling?” Barney asks, worry tinting his voice. “You okay? I heard the bed hit the wall.” Gordon tries to smile at Barney, but he fears it comes off as a grimace. “Are you in pain?” Gordon manages a nod before pointing to his side.
“Hot,” He signs, “Pain. Don’t know why.” Immediately. Barney’s hands are all over him, taking the confirmation of pain as an invitation to touch. For some reason, it doesn’t hurt when Barney touches it, but when Gordon just brushes his fingers against it, there’s a hot flash of pain and he feels his stomach clenching. Gordon can feel the first spark of panic in his brain, and he wildly looks to Barney to quell it, but-
His eyes are pinched with concern and worry, but-
They’re brown and grey-ish blue. But, there’s nothing wrong with that! His eyes have always been like that! It’s hard to see under his helmet, which is why he jokingly says that his eyes could be yellow and nobody’d notice, but- but-
Then why does Gordon think his eyes should be green , like his?
Gordon can feel the panic grow like a wave, but he can’t explain why this feels wrong. It just is and Gordon wants it to stop.
Barney’s looking at him still, but all of a sudden, he’s aware of the fuzziness that surround the room. Of the unrealness of it.
I’m dreaming, Gordon thinks.
And then he’s not.
And then, he’s shooting into an upright position, ignoring the pain in his side to instead start to struggle to get up. Everything’s still fuzzy and he can’t tell where he is exactly, but he has a sense of fear and a need to move that he doesn’t fight. His memories start to flash in his mind and his need to move increases tenfold.Why was he asleep? Where was the Combine? Why would Alyx let him fall asleep like that?
He’s still struggling to get out of a bed ( where’s the HEV suit? Where’s Alyx? Where’s-) when he hears a commotion in the doorway that makes him look up and-
He can feel his shoulders fall and some tension leak out of him as he takes in her appearance. She’s wearing the same outfit as the last time he saw her, but it looks cleaner. In fact, all of her looks cleaner. Her hair’s more brushed, and she has a bright white bandage on her neck. That’s all he can take in before she’s tucked up under his chin in one blink. It’s….. Warm. Gordon lets his arms wrap around her and hug her back. He can feel himself tear up, but by the shaking of the shoulders in front of him, there’d be no shame to cry. After a minute, Alyx speaks.
“I-I thought you were going to die,” she says and the way her voice cracks just breaks his heart. They’ve only known each other for a couple days, max, but he still feels fiercely protective of her. It’s nice to know it’s reciprocated. There’s a couple sniffles coming from her, so he lets a few tears go and hopes she knows that he’s sorry to have caused her pain.
Ever since he made it to this post-Black Mesa world, he’s been held on a pedestal. Everyone expects him just to fix everything and save them, but after he ran straight into a Combine Station and had to fight his way out, Alyx started to treat him more like a human. Seeing someone nearly fall over trying to get to a healing station can do that apparently. He just never meant to reinforce the idea that he’s human so strongly.
Gordon feels like they would’ve stayed there for hours if Alyx hadn’t tightened her grip, causing his side to flare out and him to smack her side to let her know that it’s too much, it feels like you shot me again . He repeated that sediment when she was up and out of his arms and she gave him a watery laugh before looking to the side and rubbing the back of her neck.
“Look, I’m gonna tell the other’s you’re up. You- you’re okay with that, right?” Gordon nods and she flashes him a smile before darting out of the room with a I’ll come back with something to eat!
Gordon, suddenly left on his own, takes the moment to do a mental checklist of himself, going over every part of his body that hurts when he flexes it. It’s probably not the best thing to do in his condition, but it’s comforting. He used to do it in the bowels of Black Mesa, when there was no sense of time or knowing when the next health station would be.
After he did that, he starts looking around the room that he’s found himself in. There aren’t any windows, so he doesn’t know if he’s underground or not, and the walls look dirty, but the bed and blankets are as clean as he’s ever seen so far and there’s a bookshelf in the corner where he can make out books. Small and dirty books that look a little waterlogged, sure, but books nevertheless.
He’s taken to squinting to see if he can read any of the book's titles when the next person arrives. He hears them coming and mentally prepares himself to be tackled again. And when they stop at his door, he looks up.
It’s Barney, and he’s shot full of overwhelming joy. Barney’s alive! He’s made it!
And then he sees the nervous look on Barney’s face and he feels his joy crawl back into his mouth and settle into the back of his throat.
“What’s wrong?” He tries to sign, but Barney isn’t looking at him. He doesn’t even move his head when Gordon’s hands move. He’s just looking at the wall behind him. “Barney?” Still nothing. “Calhoun?” Sometimes, when Alyx and Gordon had found him, he had responded better to Calhoun, but he’s still looking away and- and Gordon feels like crying.
Sure, he’s used to the silent treatment, either on purpose or on accident. You can’t spend your life being mute without someone ignoring you trying to sign at them or talking over you or simply glossing over you because if you can’t speak up , then you’re not worth their time. It can’t be helped when most people are used to someone calling out to get they’re attention.
But never Barney.
Barney always paid attention to Gordon. He always looked directly at Gordon when he saw his hands move even the slightest. He was careful like that, always keeping them in sight so Gordon could always talk. At the beginning, there were some times when Barney couldn’t understand them (his sign language was rusty after not talking to his grandma after so many years), but Gordon could still talk.
But now Barney was ignoring him. And-
You know what? Gordon’s furious. How dare he? How dare he ignore him, after everything they’ve been through? Gordon grabs the pillow from behind him, and with the aim of someone who’s killed countless creatures, he throws the pillow directly at Barney’s face. Barney’s head shoots up, and Gordon knows that he could just catch it with his reflexes, but to his mild surprise, it hits. And flops pathetically to the ground.
Barney looks down at the pillow for a brief moment before picking it up and looking at Gordon and finally, you asshole.
“Get over here,” Gordon scowls, allowing his anger to make his movements choppy. He wants Barney to know he’s mad, and by the way Barney’s eyes dart around the room as he slowly makes his way over, he succeeded in his goal. When Barney’s close enough, Gordon snatches the pillow from his hands and hits him with it. And he hits him again. And again. Gordon keeps hitting him until his anger is gone and all that’s left is the sting of rejection from being ignored and he can’t help but let his tears fall as his hits turn into him just papping Barney softly with a pillow. His shoulders start to shake and Barney’s eyes stop darting around the room to look at Gordon, to actually look at him.
And suddenly, he’s being pressed into the rough material of Barney’s uniform as a hand rubs circles and Barney lets out a couple shushes and It’s gonna be alright . Gordon’s too exhausted to fight him now, from using all the energy with Alyx and now this, and he can feel the strain on his bullet wound, but, fuck. He just wants to be okay for a few more minutes. When his shoulders stop shaking, he can feel Barney pull back, and Gordon lets him retreat until they’re arms length away. And then he sends the most scathing glare he can muster.
“Don’t you ever, EVER, ignore me again, Barney Calhoun, or I’ll make you wish you’d kill me with those bullets.” And Gordon only feels slightly satisfied when he can see Barney physically gulp at the threat before he pulls Barney back into a hug.
A short nap later, and Barney now has Gordon’s head in his lap and is stroking his hair gently. Gordon’s still very tired and he suspects he will be for a while, but right now, he’s alright with being tired. But they still need to talk.
“Barney?” He signs, slightly unsure on how to proceed with this, but Barney’s hum encourages him to continue. “What was up with you earlier? You just stood in the door and you…” He trails off, not quite ready to face the fact that Barney ignored him. He might be blowing it out of proportion, but he’s had a very rough couple of weeks and he thinks he deserves to have a little breakdown over the fact that his boyfriend had done the one thing that he had silently promised to never do. (Were they even boyfriends anymore? It’s been 20 years, and while neither of them have seemed to change, a lot can happen in that time. God, he’s not prepared for Barney to break up with him, so he’s going to avoid thinking about that for right now.) Barney sighs above him and continues to run his fingers through Gordon’s hair.
“I just- I think it- I was-” Gordon softly taps his fingers against Barney’s knee and Barney takes a deep breath before trying to speak again. “I thought you’d hate me, Gordon,” he admits quietly- and what can Gordon say to that? Barney carries on, but Gordon won’t forget that. “I had just gone back to the Combine and- even after you and Alyx told me not to!- and they did exactly what they said they would and it was horrible and I just- it feels so wrong when they change anything at all but this- this was so much worse!” Gordon feels something wet fall onto his face and he looks up to see Barney crying. He vaguely remembers Barney crying before he passed out, but he’s still surprised that the Combine hadn’t taken that from him.
“It’s like they took everything that was me,” Barney continues through the tears, “and they shoved it into a box that was too small for me- much to small- and then they applied pressure to all the sides to make me even smaller and then ,” his breath hitched here and Gordon reaches up to brush some tears away, “and then they put that tiny, horrible box in the dark, in front of a tiny screen that showed everything that my body did without me there to stop it and- Gordon,” Barney curls himself over Gordon, and carefully removes his hands from Gordon’s hair so he can tug on his own. “Gordon, I killed people. So many people! And it’s- And I couldn’t really do anything! I was so far away from what was happening, but I couldn’t stop watching! And when- and then when I saw you, It was like every part of me that was in that tiny box was suddenly ripping everything that it could touch apart, except the only thing it could touch was me, so it felt like I was ripping myself apart , and suddenly you were bleeding all over me and I couldn’t think, I just wanted to stop watching because I didn’t want to watch me kill you too and-” Barney cuts himself off with a sob, and if Gordon could shift without aggravating his wounds, then he’d be scooping Barney up and hugging him tight, but all he can do in this position is rub comforting circles into his knee as Barney sobs above him. This was heartbreaking to listen to, but he’d listen for as long as Barney talks.
“And then,” he cries, “I was suddenly back in control and you were falling and all I could do was catch you. And then you were dying. I thought you were dying.” Barney leans impossibly close and rests his forehead against Gordon’s. “I thought you were dead. I thought I killed you,” he whispers before breaking into another round of sobbing. Gordon offered as much comfort as he could, but they could only wait as Barney calmed down. When Barney’s calm enough, Gordon tugs at his wrist and it only takes two tugs before Barney adjusts so he’s laying beside Gordon instead of sitting at his head.
“I’m sorry,” Barney whispers. “I shouldn’t’ve- I should’ve known better to ignore you like that. Even If I was scared that you’d hate me. I had no reason- I shouldn’t’ve done it.” Gordon nods a little before reaching out for Barney’s hand. Barney clutches to it life it’s a life-line, the only thing standing between Barney and utter destruction and maybe it is. Gordon absently rubs at his chest, right where his necklace left a decent sized bruise every time he got hit in the chestplate. The necklace sits on the nightstand next to the bed and honestly? Gordon’s surprised that it’s survived this long. Sure, it’s been under his HEV suit (something that was not comfortable in any way whatsoever, but goddamnit, he wanted to wear it that day to the test and there was no way he was going to take it off and possibly lose it afterwards), but he thought it’d be smashed by now. Instead, it’s survived with only a couple chips and dents and it gives Gordon the tiniest bits of hope, however pathetic it might be. If something as fragile as a necklace can survive this, then can’t I survive it too?
“I don’t know if I can forgive you yet,” Gordon signs to Barney, because it still hurts a little but. Gordon turns to look at Barney in the eyes as he signs the next part. “I still love you, though.” And Barney tears up a little before he’s nodding.
“Me too, Gordon. God, I love you too.” Barney reaches out with his free hand and stokes his face with the back of his hand and Gordon leans into it, earning him a little watery chuckle. “I don’t think I could ever stop loving you. God, I love you so much.” And now Gordon can feel himself tear up a little before he’s also nodding and moving closer to Barney to rest their foreheads together.
“Love you,” Gordon signs as he gives Barney’s mask a kiss, one of the only things the Combine successfully took from them.
“Love you too, Gordon,” Barney mutters, leaning into Gordon even harder and Gordon has a thought.
Maybe… Maybe the two of them will make it through this.